3 things we learned about England after drab Denmark draw

  • England were dire in 1-1 draw with Denmark at Euro 2024
  • Three Lions top of Group C and have all but qualified for round of 16
  • Improvements required across the board from Gareth Southgate's heavily fancied side
England were dire in their 1-1 draw with Denmark
England were dire in their 1-1 draw with Denmark / Alex Grimm/GettyImages

Euro 2024 watchers were treated to an exhibition on Thursday night.

Wondrous collective cohesion combined with technical mastery and electricity down the flanks to produce one of the standout performances of the tournament thus far. They were far too good for a top-ranked opponent, one they faced in the semi-finals at Euro 2020.

If only we were talking about England.

Enjoying Spain having endured the Three Lions was the treat we all deserved. Luis de la Fuente's side served as the 'what you could've been...' for English supporters.

While Spain dazzled in a 1-0 victory over Italy which should've been more emphatic, England escaped their second group game elated with a point. If their display in Gelsenkirchen drew concerns, their showing in Frankfurt required a post-mortem.

They may be top of Group C and on the brink of qualification, but the positive energy and momentum which defined previous tournaments under Gareth Southgate is nowhere to be seen. Here are three things we learned from England's 1-1 draw against Denmark.

1. England can't press

Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham
England are labouring out of possession / Richard Sellers/Allstar/GettyImages

England are doing a lot wrong, but key to their woes thus far has been a woeful, disengaged 'press'.

Southgate has shown an ability, especially outside of tournaments, to coach a press similar to those seen every week at club level with the wingers pinching inside and full-backs arriving in advanced positions to stifle progression in wide areas. There's previously been more man-to-man than the conservative zonal nonsense we've seen in Germany thus far.

Against Denmark, England's efforts without the ball were led by a beleaguered Harry Kane. Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka were once again tasked with blocking space in wide areas - they did so with little success as the Danes constantly accessed their wing-backs.

Jude Bellingham was overloaded centrally, with the pivot midfielders very rarely jumping to contribute higher up. The one time Declan Rice was aggressive, the Arsenal midfielder won back possession and almost created an opening.

Instead, the two midfielders were more concerned with Denmark's runners from midfield and thus sunk deeper and deeper. They were on top of their defence at times, with gaping voids being left in the middle of the park,

There were a lot of issues out of possession which led to Kasper Hjulmand's side enjoying more of the contest than they should've done. England's issues are structural. Kane's apparent weariness isn't the primary problem.

2. England can't pass

Kyle Walker
England were dispossessed on many occasions in their own half / Franco Arland/GettyImages

Serbia caused England all sorts of problems on Matchday 1 with their man-to-man press in the second half, forcing the Three Lions relentlessly long.

Thus, it was no surprise that Denmark, given their astuteness without the ball, also made England suffer. The Danes' press wasn't particularly fierce, but they were able to trap England in wide areas and force them into multiple build-up errors. Southgate's side struggled to combine out of pressure due to a lack of options - another structural flaw - and were once again forced long in a bid to avoid the cession of possession in dangerous positions, which almost cost them.

Jordan Pickford completed just five of his 18 'long' (more than 30 yards) passes, while Kyle Walker and Kieran Tripper, England's full-backs, completed less than 85% of their passes. They had no way out down the flanks.

A sub-par pitch didn't help England's flagging build-up, but given the quality John Stones, Marc Guehi, Declan Rice, and Trent Alexander-Arnold have in possession, they should not be having such distinct issues attempting to get up the field.

3. England are unbalanced

Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate needs to find a solution... or three / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Southgate has never been a venerated tactician, but England's recent success at tournaments has not been down to talent alone. The manager's ability to establish a balance within his squad and starting XI have played a key role.

Right now, however, England don't have that.

The issues with and without the ball may well be down to a lack of balance in this starting XI. Southgate decried the absence of a "natural" Kalvin Phillips replacement, yet he has Adam Wharton, a sound blocker of space and wonderful technician, at his disposal.

The manager has alternatives that could offer superior balance. England desperately need Luke Shaw back fit at left-back, and forwards willing to run in behind. England have so far been forced long in the absence of outlets.

Phil Foden's relationship with Trippier has so far ceased to exist, and the absence of a left flank has stymied England. Their lack of balance going forward is hindering them massively, and Southgate needs to take a leaf out of Julian Nagelsmann's book when attempting to cram a bunch of wonderfully gifted playmakers into one team.