As the final whistle blew on another very typical midweek evening at Wembley, England fans were presented with a difficult truth, the game that was supposed to answer the final questions ahead of the squad announcement for Brazil, instead presented more questions. Are we defensively good enough? can we find the right combination in the center of the park? and more importantly, can we accommodate both Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney in the same team.
Week in and week out we are fortunate to see the likes of Sturridge and Sterling ripping Premier League defenses apart. Henderson controlling midfield with Steven Gerrard, playing cutting through balls and making gut-wrenching runs into the box. We see Rooney spreading the play from left to right, playing intricate balls in and around the box. We see Wilshere play like a Spanish dynamo, one touch passes and well timed runs. Then we see them all in an England shirt and we are presented with the difficult truth, these players are a shell of their dynamic selves when playing for their country.
Last night we saw England labor through another International friendly creating only half chances while presenting several chances to the Danish, when they managed to get out of their own half. We saw the Manchester United approach to football, balls out wide and then firing them into the box where we have Sturridge and a late arriving Sterling as the only goal threat. Wayne Rooney looked devoid of ideas, coming deeper and deeper in search of the ball, which ultimately slowed down our whole attacking approach.
So now we have to ask the question, can we accommodate Wayne Rooney in this team? We certainly can't play him as the main striker, a Daniel Sturridge on the wing is a wasted talent. Far too often Rooney would start as the furthest man forward, pushing Sturridge to the right or left. Rooney would then go deep leaving us with no central attacking threat. In fact England didn't start to look threatening until Southampton star man Adam Lallana came on and Wayne Rooney departed.
It was a chance for the likes of Jordan Henderson to stake his claim to a starting spot, let alone a place on the plane. However he looked nothing like the Henderson you will see week in and week out for Liverpool. He looked afraid to make a forward pass, afraid to lose the ball, so the ball went sideways and then backwards. This is an underlying problem with the England team, everyone is afraid to lose the ball which makes it very difficult to play that cutting edge pass.
Defensively I can understand why we were a little shaky, after all we were probably missing 3 of the 4 players who will start against Italy in Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka and Kyle Walker. Glen Johnson did enough to suggest he should be on the plane, however as good as he was going forward, his positioning and defending still leaves a lot to be desired. Both Luke Shaw and Ashley Cole looked excellent at left back, and many would agree that to be our strongest position in terms of depth, which is sad in itself.
Jack Wilshere for me was one of the poorest performers on the night, slow on and off the ball and the regular injury scare that we come to expect. However we know he can play a lot better, however to be better does he need to play in a more advanced role? the one currently being occupied by Wayne Rooney? It's a question that Roy will need to answer. As an out-and-out central midfielder, I just don't like him there for England, but at least he attempts the quick intricate passing that will unlock defenses at the highest level.
Roy chose to play Joe Hart for 90 minutes. We already know he is England's number 1, but if he gets injured, our back-up keepers will be severely lacking in game experience. Steven Gerrard was outstanding, but did he really need to play 90 minutes in that role? I'm sure Brendan Rodgers is not happy with Roy this morning. We could have given Ox at least 30 minutes in that role.
However it's not all doom and gloom despite the problems listed above. Joe Hart looked assured in goal and I thought Daniel Sturridge had a very strong game when Rooney departed and he was allowed to play his natural position. He looked more threatening and more confident and took his goal very well. He just can't stop scoring when he is playing where he wants to play, on the shoulder of the last man.
Adam Lallana looked dangerous when he came on and he is capable of playing those smart balls around the box to open up teams. He put numerous dangerous crosses into the box and it was his assist that led to Sturridge's goal. If he wasn't already a dead cert to make the plane, he should be now and he should start too.
Raheem Sterling looked positive and dangerous and we all know fullbacks hate players running at them. However man of the match for me was Steven Gerrard. Who did what a captain should do, and lead by example. This is a mid-season friendly, and he is guaranteed a spot on the plane to Brazil. However he looked as though he really wanted it. He was releasing the full-backs with 40 yard pin-point passes. He was closing down and breaking up play and his night was typified when he was racing to close down a Danish player in the 92nd minute.
However at the end of the night, it was more questions to be answered and another dreary game that is likely to put the lively Brazilians to sleep this Summer.