England 2-3 Denmark
Old Trafford, Manchester
16 November 2003
Sven took the opportunity to look at some fresh faces and tried out a new formation. He even saw his side score two fine goals. Almost everything went to plan - except for the fact that Denmark scored three themselves.
After a week in which football had not been the first matter on the agenda, the players seemed to be delighted to let their feet do the talking and the crowd were treated to one of the most exciting openings to an England game for a long while.
With Joe Cole tucked in behind Heskey and Rooney in a new 4-3-3 formation, England ignited into action with almost immediate effect.
After five minutes, Rooney stormed forward and tried to play in Heskey. When the ball ricocheted into space behind the Danish back four, there was only one winner of the race to the ball. The Everton man powered into the area and smashed a rising shot home. For extra effect the ball crashed in off the underside of the crossbar.
The man who had been suffering from a severe bout of flu a week ago had caught Denmark cold.
Rooney's wonderful goal and the nation's pride at the progression of Clive Woodward's team to the World Cup Final earlier in the day sparked an impromptu rendition of 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot'. All was well with the world - for three minutes.
Then Martin Jorgensen gave us a hint of the visitors' threat in front of goal when he swept home a cross from the right to give David James no chance. Game on.
However, within seconds, disappointment dissipated into elation. Sven's men reclaimed the lead before Denmark had even had another touch of the ball. Beckham drove the ball forward, Heskey nodded down for Rooney and the teenager slipped in Joe Cole.
The elusive Chelsea talent, supporting the strikers in exactly the manner that Sven would have hoped, calmly and confidently caressed the ball home with a left footed strike into the far corner. Old Trafford was in raptures. But that was the highpoint from an England perspective.
Denmark continued to press forward and found space whenever they did so.
The 4-3-3 system seemed to play to England's strengths offensively, but expose them defensively. The hugely talented Cole's self-confessed favoured position is the free role he was granted, while Lampard and Beckham clearly relished their own more central briefs. However, with the entire midfield clustering in the centre, there were gaps down the channels for Denmark to exploit.
They had both the awareness and ability to do just that.
As the game tipped increasingly towards the Danes, England's vulnerability was demonstrated when James brought down Rommedahl on the edge of his area. Rommedahl limped off but the English rearguard was clearly unsettled.
When Matthew Upson clattered into Jorgensen, referee Hrinak pointed straight to the spot. Jonny Wilkinson would have been proud of Jorgensen's conversion.
A magical turn and run by Joe Cole on the brink of the interval brought the crowd to their feet just in time for their cup of tea and there was even the chance to see Perez miss a clear chance for Denmark as everyone headed for their winter-warmer. This was engrossing stuff.
The start to the second half was just as lively. A Rooney rocket came back off the post. Had it gone in, it may have burst the net.
Sven talks so often about the need to steer clear of injuries if England are to fulfil their potential in Portugal. In this form, it's difficult to imagine how even the world's best defences would be able to contend with Rooney. He certainly has a bit of the Gazzas about him and it's vital that he does not allow injuries to rob him of the power and pace that make him so dangerous. He must heed the lessons of Gascoigne's example.
At the other end, substitute Paul Robinson's blocks from Gronkjaer and Perez saved two certain goals, not to mention a few blushes. Sven realised defensive reinforcement was required, withdrawing Beckham and Rooney for Jenas and debutant Scott Parker. It was a close call between the skipper and the striker as to who got the greater applause from the 64,000 crowd. Rooney's star is rising swiftly.
But the changes failed to plug the gaps and Tomasson's 81st minute strike - sweeping home the rebound from Jorgensen's shot - was not unexpected given the openings that the visitors were creating on such a consistent basis.
There were positives. Notably the continued emergence of the Clelsea contingent: Joe Cole sparkled, Glen Johnson debuted, John Terry led and Lampard continues to grow fitter, quicker and more confident by the game.
As the final whistle blew on this game, The Jam's anthem 'That's entertainment' accompanied the dispersing crowd home. Entertaining it undoubtedly was, but the manager will want more come next summer.
From Dan Freedman at Old Trafford
England: David James (Paul Robinson, 45), Gary Neville (Glen Johnson, 15), Ashley Cole (Wayne Bridge, 45), John Terry, Matthew Upson, Nicky Butt (Phil Neville, 45), David Beckham (Jermaine Jenas, 66), Frank Lampard, Joe Cole (Danny Murphy, 76), Emile Heskey (James Beattie, 45), Wayne Rooney (Scott Parker, 66)
Denmark: Thomas Sorensen, Morten Weighorst (Daniel Jensen, 29), Rene Henriksen, Per Nielsen (Thomas Gaardsoe, 70), Niclas Jensen, Thomas Helveg (Brian Priske, 45), Thomas Gravesen, Jesper Gronkjaer (Peter Lovenkrands, 62), Dennis Rommedahl (Kenneth Perez, 20), Martin Jorgensen (Peter Madsen, 84), Ebbe Sand (Jon Dahl Tomasson, 45)
Referee: Vladimir Hrinak