England’s World Cup preparations begin on Wednesday night as Denmark return to Wembley for the first time in twenty years. The game marks the Three Lions’ first outing since the draw for the tournament was announced in December, and is England’s penultimate game on home soil before the squad jet off to Miami for last-minute friendlies against Ecuador and Honduras in early June.
With no points at stake and no real pressure on the result, it is predicted that Wembley will fail to attract a huge crowd with an estimated 68,000 expected at the game. However, Roy Hodgson will use the match to begin his assessment of the squad as he starts to narrow down who he will take to the World Cup. Controversial absentees from the 30-man squad include Adam Johnson, Gareth Barry, Andy Carroll and Tom Huddlestone, who will have to continue to work hard for their clubs to earn their place. While Hodgson insists there is still time for these players to force their way into his plans, individuals such as Luke Shaw, Steven Caulker and Raheem Sterling will be hoping that they can use the Denmark game as a platform to strengthen their chances of being on the plane to Brazil.
Indeed, huge changes are expected from the XI that started against Germany in November. Skipper Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Joe Hart are among the high-profile names expected to be rested with their World Cup places all-but confirmed. However, England’s rookies can’t expect a walk in the park. Despite failing to qualify for Brazil, the Danes are ranked 20th in the world – five places below England. Their squad is largely comprised of the Danish Superliga’s best players and they are captained by tough Liverpool centre-half Daniel Agger. England will be thankful that star man Christian Eriksen misses out through injury, while Tottenham team-mate Kyle Walker is the only player missing for the Three Lions.
With nothing significant riding on the game and with a starting XI that is likely to be very different from the one that lines up in Manaus on 14 June, many might regard this game as missable. However, with the influx of fresh talent coming up against tough opposition, the game has the potential to very entertaining, and enlightening. It will also be interesting to see how some of Roy Hodgson’s more controversial choices get on before his next squad is announced leading up to the game against Peru in May.