The final time England encountered Denmark at Wembley, in a Nations League match final October, Harry Maguire left the area seething in rage, simply 31 minutes into the recreation after copping his second yellow card. Five minutes later, his defensive colleague Kyle Walker and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford have been locked in a horrible tangle with a Denmark participant inside the field that culminated in a penalty, which turned out to be the match-defining second. At the remaining whistle, full-back Reece James barged into the referee and picked up a purple card himself.
Those have been darker days in England soccer; Maguire was the tabloid villain after his storied and juicy escapades in Greece, right-back Kieran Trippier needed to clear his identify off betting fees; Tammy Abraham, Ben Chilwell and Jadon Sancho have been busy churning out page-three-worthy stuff. The aforementioned match was seen not as prognosis, however proof of England’s indiscipline, particularly of their defenders and goalkeeper. It was barely a month earlier that Pickford was slapped with the “bone-collector” moniker after taking down Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk with a hideous problem that stored the Dutchman out for the total season.
The media scrutiny, understandably, was stinging after England’s defeat, although it was an inconsequential recreation. “It’s a night locked up in my memory,” Maguire as soon as mentioned. But it’s an evening value unlocking and reflecting, to determine the progress England, and particularly, the villains of that evening, have since made.
Maguire has not simply put the previous behind, however grown into an exemplary chief and unbudging rock at the back, his proneness to self-destruct a distant characteristic of his petulant youth. Walker has smoothened his tough edges, marrying play-making instincts with defensive metal. Trippier has turn out to be intelligent and craftier, sharpened his crossing and strengthened his knack to reclaim the ball. Pickford has realized to harness his aggression in additional helpful methods than flipping his adversaries. His reflexes have been by no means disputed; now his temperament and skill to encourage are being lauded. His saves in the Round of 16 encounter towards Germany went a great distance in preserving England afloat in phases just like the place they’d imploded in the previous. No goalkeeper has ever stored clear sheets in 5 successive video games at the Euros. Not Gigi Buffon, not Iker Casillas, not Olivier Kahn, not Edwin van der Saar.
Two others who have been wading by means of confidence crises the identical time final 12 months however have made unbelievable comebacks to the helm, Luke Shaw and John Stones, full an unbreakable backline that has but to concede a objective in the match. Stones embodies unhurried resoluteness, all the time at the proper place at the proper time; Shaw has improvised his recreation going ahead whereas engaged on his aggression to reclaim the ball.
England’s defence is quick turning into the actual deal in the match. To not ship in a objective in 400 and varied minutes isn’t any imply feat — and arguably a extra definitive cause behind their march to the semifinals. Whereas their frontmen have garnered consideration and reward earlier than and all through the match, it’s England’s unflinching defensive stability that has spurred their journey into the final 4 and made them one in all the match favourites.
Apart from zero objectives conceded, one other stat illuminates their efficacy. They have made the fewest tackles in the championship, which denotes that they haven’t been steadily challenged into situations whereby they don’t have any different choice however to deal with – which is commonly a last-ditch effort – and characterised England’s defence in the previous.
A unique problem
Against Germany, they have been unflappable; towards Ukraine, they have been imposing. Denmark provide a special risk altogether. They are similar to the Germans, in each formation and performance. Usually lining up in a 3-4-3 (they’ve stunned with 4-3-3 too), lots of their inventive duties are tasked on the wing-backs, the right-footed Joakim Maehle on the left, and both Daniel Wass or Jens Stryger Larsen on the proper. Often, they run full pent and assume the inside ahead’s position whereas one in all their centre-forwards drops deeper into the midfield, pulling one in all the centre-backs into him, thus offering his workforce numerical superiority for a quick, however very important, second.
Mikkel Damsgaard, the alternative for Christian Eriken, has been distinctive in his potential to tug one in all the defenders to observe him to the midfield. Equally vital is monitoring the run of midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, a well-recognized face to England’s soccer followers. His position with the nationwide workforce although is markedly totally different from the enforcer position he assumes for Tottenham Hotspur. Since Eriksen’s departure, he has taken a extra attacking position, and cast a robust alliance with Thomas Delaney, with whom he interchanges roles and positions. Interchangeability of roles has been one in all Denmark’s strengths, which England have to preserve a pointy eye on. Moreover, not like Germany and Ukraine, goal-scoring threats lurk throughout the area for Denmark with specialised long-rangers prepared for half a sniff to flash their boot.
It may current Southgate with a formational dilemma, whether or not to stay with the fluid back-two plus two fullbacks or a extra workmanlike back-three plus two full-backs, the place England would match Denmark place for place. England’s defenders are adaptable to each, however a back-three means an attacker much less, which invariably reduces their offensive risk, and if England find yourself shedding, would threat each rebuke and mock. Besides, which of their attackers would they bench? Certainly not Harry Kane or Raheem Sterling. Taking out one in all Jadon Sancho or Mason Mount would cut back each tempo and creativity. Disrupting the central midfield pairing of Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice can be delusional, and so they may find yourself shedding supremacy in the center of the park.
Weaving in all the components, it might not be a stroll on the Wembley turf. But it may very well be the evening of resurrection for Harry Maguire and pals, who have been, a disorganised mess, once they encountered Denmark the final time there.