Hjulmand rocket earns Denmark draw as England struggle after Kane opener

“England, England, It’s Never ­Coming Home.” The chant from the ­Denmark support – to the tune of ­Yellow Submarine – had been heard outside the stadium in the hours before kick-off and it would reverberate inside it ­during a highly stressful 90 minutes. On this evidence, it was the understatement of Euro 2024 so far.

Gareth Southgate can highlight the point, which moved England closer to the job-done territory of qualification for the last 16. It must be said there is precious little jeopardy around that. Who exactly does not advance?

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The jeopardy was to be found in the England performance. They might have nicked the win, Phil Foden hitting a post in the second half; a few other assorted flickers. But, equally, they might have lost because ­Denmark had their chances. There was a last-ditch quality to England’s defending and when Pierre-Emile Højbjerg shaped a curler for the far corner in the 85th minute, England’s hearts were in their mouths. Fortunately, the shot was off target.

England lacked structure and progressive patterns in midfield, progressive patterns, with all three of Southgate’s starters – Trent Alexander-Arnold, Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham – enduring difficult games. The manager raised eyebrows when he withdrew his front three of Bukayo Saka, Harry Kane and Foden on 70 minutes but the first two could not complain. Is Kane fully fit? Foden was bright enough. Jarrod Bowen, Ollie Watkins and Eberechi Eze brought something in their places.

For England, the control was not there and nor was the belief. They looked edgy, the pressure weighing heavily. The worst thing that could be said was they looked less than the sum of their vaunted parts. The hope had been when Kane put them ahead that they could settle but they did not. Southgate had demanded care with the passing. It did not happen. It was horrible to see how poor they were in this department.

After the 1-0 win over Serbia on Sunday, which featured a second-half retreat, it was a backwards step for England, Denmark good value for the draw, which they secured with Morten Hjulmand’s scorching 30-yard drive just after the half-hour. The hope remains that England can put their problems behind them and grow into a tournament that they started as one of the favourites. Who was buying that in Frankfurt?

England were ragged at the outset, making errors, so many loose passes. There was a lack of cohesion when it mattered on the ball while many of the players had problems with the turf, which cut up noticeably.

Kyle Walker was one of them, ­slipping over twice in the early ­running, rolling his ankle on the second occasion, which looked bad. Fortunately, he was able to continue, changing his boots before he returned to the pitch. Walker would be key to the move for the breakthrough goal.

Quite how Victor Kristiansen, the Denmark left wing-back, was unaware of Walker stealing up on his outside was a mystery. Maybe it was because any shouts from ­teammates were impossible to hear amid the remorseless din under the closed roof of an excellent venue.

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Kristiansen just did not see him as the Dane pondered a backpass and, when Walker robbed him, England felt the surge of possibility. Their luck was in, Walker’s low cross, seemingly intended for Foden, deflecting first off Jannik Vestergaard and then Andreas Christensen to break perfectly for Kane. It was a done deal at that point.

Denmark did not panic. They had given up a couple of flickers at 0-0, Foden slipping away from Højbjerg after a Walker cutback only to shoot wildly; Kane seeing a shot blocked after Rice had won the ball high up. But it was Denmark who looked the more cohesive.

It was worrying to see how much space they were able to enjoy, ­England’s midfield looking open against the ball. The pressing ­simply did not click. Denmark pushed, with England forced to defend with a degree of desperation.

There were an alarming number of situations where England had no options on the ball and Kane was guilty of trying to force a crossfield pass from the left inside his own half for the Denmark equaliser. It went straight to Kristiansen and when he moved it to Hjulmand, he unleashed his rocket, watching the ball glance in off Jordan Pickford’s right-hand post. The power and precision were extraordinary.


Foden would slice past a couple of challengers on 41 minutes only to ignore Kane and shoot weakly and England were the happier to hear the half-time whistle.

Southgate made a move on 54 minutes, introducing Conor Gallagher for Alexander-Arnold, whose performance will deepen the debate about the balance of the England midfield with him in it. Before the Liverpool player departed, he had pumped a long ball forward for Saka, which the winger almost made something of, waiting for the bounce and looping a header just off target.

England sought greater intensity, Gallagher helping, although he would tread a fine line after being booked for a stamp on Christensen. Foden almost scored with his best moment, a couple of touches followed by a rasping low drive from distance that rattled the upright.

Southgate made a triple change and Watkins got on to a Bellingham pass and forced a save from Kasper Schmeichel. The closing stages were frantic, Marc Guéhi dispossessed by the substitute Alexander Bah after a bad Rice pass but he raced back to make a crucial tackle. From the corner, Christensen went close and so did Højbjerg shortly afterwards. England got away with it.