Defeating Danes demonstrates Rooney must play off Sturridge
“I wish you good luck in the World Cup – you need it.” The grim and accurate assessment of the longest serving international manager, and coach of England’s last opponents Denmark, Morten Olsen.
Buoyed by this third international goal in 10 caps, Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is now 5/2 joint-favourite alongside Wayne Rooney with Coral to be the Three Lions’ top-scorer at the World Cup.
England scraped victory at Wembley – their first win in three – thanks to a late Sturridge header. The difference between Roy Hodgson’s side and the Danes essentially boiled down to the visitors falling asleep to an Adam Lallana short corner routine.
Hodgson opted for a front three with Sturridge and Anfield colleague Raheem Sterling playing either side of Rooney, who dragged two first-half efforts across the face of goal from tight angles before being subbed after an hour.
For all teenage winger Sterling’s encouraging endeavour and occasional interchanging on what was just his second senior Three Lions cap and start, his deliveries seldom found either of his fellow forwards.
He remains a raw talent which Hodgson will hope to tap into, however, and is now odds-on at 8/13 to be on the World Cup roster.
Midfield supply was short too because starting trio Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere played almost as a flat three.
Dynamism was thus missing from the England engine room and a disciplined, organised Denmark, who finished behind Hodgson’s first World Cup opponents Italy in qualifying, picked their own moments to attack better.
Victory over a side which failed to make it to the World Cup finals has done nothing to enhance the Three Lions’ prospects of going all the way in Brazil. England are still 28/1 shots – equal with other major Group D obstacle Uruguay, who were held 1-1 by Austria – to lift the trophy on South American soil.
The 4-3-3 formation neither frustrated Denmark, nor produced a glut of chances for Hodgson. Rooney plays in the hole for Manchester United and if that is the position he gets regular football in, then that must be his place for country as well as club.
When Sturridge was given something to attack against the Danes, i.e. Lallana’s fine cross, he produced. As leading English marksman in the Premier League with 18 this term, he is the Three Lions’ clear choice to spearhead attack.
Playing 4-4-1-1 against Germany in their previous outing failed to inspire confidence, but a subtle twist on this formation might pay off. Rooney off Sturridge and wingers given licence to play further forward in a 4-2-3-1 may solve England’s issues.
This accommodates talisman Rooney to drop deep. Playing him as centre forward in a 4-3-3 saw him continue to do this anyway, leaving nothing for Sterling and others to aim for.
Midfield would then require legs and passing. We saw plenty of the latter against Denmark as the hosts enjoyed the lion’s share of possession. Hodgson sent his charges out in as cautious a 4-3-3 as you can get, but it is now evidence this is not the way to make major inroads at the World Cup.
However England set up tactically, Sturridge – either as striker or fluid forward – looks a great bet at 5/2 to be his country’s leading scorer in Brazil and a decent 66/1 outside shout to win the Golden Boot, so back him now.