Two touches, two minutes, two goals. Examples of why friendly matches are an im
England 2-3 Denmark
Old Trafford, Manchester
16 November 2003
Two touches, two minutes, two goals. Examples of why friendly matches are an important part of international football.
Joe Cole was handed only his second start for England, and his first for over 18 months, but the young Chelsea trickster looked like an England regular from the first whistle. Watching him you sometimes wonder whether Cole suffers from nerves.
Though he's not the finished article yet, it's these matches that will help him get there and the events that occurred between 4.07pm and 4.09pm proved just that.
Collecting a pass deep in Denmark territory on the left hand side, Cole was closely monitored by his Danish shadow. But as his midfield teammates scampered forward to give the 22-year old something to aim at, he was dispossessed. Before another white shirt could get a touch of the ball, Udinese striker Martin Jorgensen had cancelled out Wayne Rooney's delicious effort.
However, the second hand had made only one trip around the clock before Cole was given the ball once more and England were back in front. This time the former West Ham man introduced the ball to the inside of his left foot, and when he could have looked to respond from his mistake with lashings of power, instead he stroked home Rooney's pass with incredible aplomb for his second England goal. Sorensen had no chance and the visiting defence cursed their luck.
For the remainder of his seventy-six minutes in the chilly Manchester air, Cole was assured and was always looking for another way through. During an entertaining first half, Cole was top of the bill and though he should have scored in the final seconds, his turn of pace past the back four and jabbed shot at goal was a delight to see.
That Cole was among friends and points were not at stake probably helped. During one period he had five Chelsea chums on the pitch with him, four in white and the Dane Gronkjaer.
Though the game cooled down after the break, Cole made the most of his chance and kept the heat on Denmark. It appeared, too, that he had learned from his error and was not going to hand over the ball so easily again. Having been guilty of overplaying in the past - remember Italy at Elland Road - working with the Stamford Bridge all-stars every week may have taught him that a combination of skill and decision-making is what makes good players great.
Just before he left us for the afternoon he tested Sorensen one last time with a powerful strike from 20 yards and, only eight days into his 23rd year, he truly deserved his standing ovation when replaced by Danny Murphy.
Paul Scholes' return to the attacking midfield slot will no doubt see Cole make way. However, as a very able understudy to one of Europe's finest and most respected players, and a few more friendly appearances, Cole looks certain to become the player that everyone hoped he would.
From Jamie Bradbury at Old Trafford