As England toiled here in Copenhagen, you couldn’t help but wonder what Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden were thinking back home in Manchester.
The team they had left in disgrace just 24 hours prior were labouring, desperately in need of inspiration.
How Gareth Southgate could have done with his fledglings on Tuesday night. That, above all else, should hurt Greenwood and Foden more than anything else.
Their team-mates were in need of their own brand of youthful genius, yet neither were able to answer the call. What’s worse, they only have themselves to blame.
But the unavailability of his two young prodigies, and the reasons behind their absence, was neither here nor there for the England manager as he watched his side stumble to a truly forgettable Nations League point against Denmark.
Had Harry Kane’s effort deep into stoppage time not be cleared off the line then Wednesday morning’s debrief would have been way easier for Southgate to stomach.
But that would merely have papered over the cracks following a worryingly lacklustre performance.
Following the tumultuous events of the past fortnight, Southgate would have been relieved to turn his focus elsewhere for 90 minutes.
Tuesday night’s clash would provide only temporary respite, of course. The repercussions of Greenwood and Foden’s clandestine meeting with two Icelandic models on Sunday will continue long into the future for England manager.
So, too, will the questions over Harry Maguire’s integrity ahead of his re-trial next year. Southgate has all that to look forward to, or not as the case may be.
But that’s life as England manager, Southgate’s faced enough crises during his tenure to know the drill.
Winning football matches will help diminish whatever anxieties Southgate may suffer over how he navigates the headaches that lie ahead.
Judging by this performance, however, Southgate can add winning football matches to his list of headaches.
Here in the Danish capital, he took the opportunity to blood two new players – Kalvin Phillips and Conor Coady handed their England debuts from the start as Southgate switched to a back-three.
It’s a system Southgate is believed to be giving serious consideration to persisting with until next summer’s European Championships. He may want to rethink that plan after this.
Coady certainly appeared to benefit from the formation switch, the Wolves central defender making an accomplished start to life on the international stage.
The fact this was his first time in an England senior shirt – or in the squad for that matter – made no odds to the Liverpudlian as he loudly set about organising his defence with authority.
He certainly wasn’t all talk either – three missile-like long range passes out to Trent Alexander-Arnold inside the opening 25 minutes all found their target to set England away on attacks.
If there was one positive to take from this night in Copenhagen, then it is Coady’s emergence as genuine option in defence.
Phillips, in contrast, didn’t necessarily find the transition from club to international football straightforward.
His first attempted pass was wasteful, soon after he was dispossessed inside his own half as he tried to carry the ball away from his own area.
But the Leeds midfielder wasn’t the only England player who struggled for rhythm. Southgate’s men were largely comfortable – but Jadon Sancho’s scuffed effort from Kieran Trippier’s clever corner in the 11th minute was all they had to show from the opening 45 minutes.
Indeed, their lack of creativity would have been a prevalent concern for Southgate following this insipid first half display.
Alexander-Arnold had threatening openings down the right, Raheem Sterling had moments down the opposite flank.
But those moments were too infrequent – and when England were in a position to penetrate the final pass was rushed or misjudged.
England had their goalkeeper to thank for keeping them on level terms at half time, Jordan Pickford’s save to deny Kasper Dolberg in the 38th minute after Christian Eriksen made his former Tottenham team-mate Eric Dier look a fool provided the highlight of the first half.
Southgate’s decision to deploy two holding central midfielders in Phillips and Declan Rice was stunting England’s creative flow.
England faced a similar problem in Iceland, having to rely on Sterling’s late penalty to earn them victory last weekend.
Yet, Southgate refused any temptation to alter his personnel or system at half-time.
Blind faith? It certainly appeared so, England started the second half just as disjointed as they finished the first.
Southgate’s first change arrived on the hour, Mason Mount replacing Sancho, who has flattered to deceive during England’s visit to Scandinavia.
Kane’s back post header from Trippier’s deep cross in the 69th minute followed by Sterling’s long-range effort that was turned behind by Kasper Schmeichel soon after at least provided some attacking punch.
But the fact Sterling’s effort – that arrived in the 70th minute – was England’s first on target of the night told its own story.
Jack Grealish replaced Phillips in the 76th minute for his England debut as Southgate searched of further inspiration.
But Denmark could have wrapped up victory in the 81st minute – Eriksen blazing over from close range before Mathias Jorgensen’s brilliantly denied Kane with virtually the last kick of the game as spoils were shared.
Sportsmail’s MATT PORTER provided live Nations League coverage including score, lineups and build-up, with full commentary of the match.
A goalless draw then, but at least it wasn’t any worse for Gareth Southgate’s men. They’ll play an important game against Belgium as they aim for the top of the group next month.
Keep an eye out for Sportsmail’s full match report of Denmark v England coming soon
And we’ve limped across the finish line. The second half was marginally better for England, but they still haven’t scored a goal from open play in the tournament so far…
Four debuts for England players tonight, so perhaps some hope for the future in there.
Meanwhile Belgium have pulled away at the top of the group with their big 5-1 win over Iceland
90+4 min: The ball comes out to Grealish, and then to Gomez, who puts a cross through to Trippier. The linesman says it’s gone out of play though… and that should be that
90+3 min: Final attack then for England… Harry Kane has the ball, Schmeichel has a moment of madness and is in no man’s land! Kane rolls it in but… off the line!
90 min: Any late drama? Trippier delivers, it’s pinged high into the air, but the referee calls for a foul after Kane pushed his man
89 min: Maitland-Niles is forward, and uses his strength to get on the end of a long ball. Kane tries a shot as the ball runs to him, but it’s gone wide thanks to a deflection
Another one some fans have been looking forward to
86 min: Not long to go now, and this could still go either way. It’s brought down in the box, and Kane comes up with it, carrying it out. But England still can’t get anything going forward
81 min: Eriksen, who’s been on good form tonight, wastes an opportunity as the ball falls to him kindly in the box. He tries to volley from around the penalty spot, but it’s well over the bar. Gomez was close to putting in a challenge… but not that close
80 min: Sterling still has his pace, but can’t find a route through into the box. England come again though, this time sub Grealish weaving his way into the box, but Denmark clear at the last moment
What a lot of fans have been waiting for… Can he take advantage of some tiring legs?
74 mins: Players are starting to find a little more space as we head towards the final 15 minutes… Will there be more late drama like there was against Iceland?
69 min: Kane finds a cross at the back post, but it’s just sailing over the top of him and he can’t get his header underneath the bar. One of England’s better chances though…
Another decent effort from Sterling moments later, as Schmeichel gets down low to push the ball wide
65 min: Eriksen dances his way into the box, but Alexander-Arnold is able to get the ball away. However, Denmark come back and win a free-kick in a dangerous position… It’s a little too far out for a shot, but Eriksen goes for it anyway and blasts it over the bar
60 min: Sterling lifts a ball over the box for Harry Kane, who’s in acres of space in the box. He gets a shot away which is blocked by Schmeichel… but he was offside anyway
Ah here we go… here comes Mason Mount
58 min: A simple pick up for Pickford as Delaney tries a long range shot which doesn’t have much power behind it.
So far, it’s been much of the same. Surely there are substitutions on the horizon?
54 min: Trippier, who is already sporting a black eye from his clash in training earlier today, will have another bruise to take back to Spain after a heavy, but fair challenge. He gets a bit of treatment but is ready to continue
52 min: Rice puts a foot in to grab the ball and England come on the attack. Kane and Sancho link up, and then it’s a wayward challenge from Braithwaite, who goes into the referee’s book. Dier got away with a similar one a few minutes ago…
50 min: A bit of space for England, and now Sterling has a chance to show off some footwork. He tries to feed Trippier, but Denmark put it out for a throw in
48 min: Sterling tries to beat his man for pace, but brings down Wass on his way. The referee calls the foul, and doesn’t pay any mind to the Englishman’s complaints
Alright, here we go. Denmark get us underway and immediately get forward as Eriksen tries a shot from distance, which is blocked
No subs just yet
Denmark definitely had the better 45 minutes of the two teams, with three decent chances. England meanwhile haven’t had much to be happy about
45 min: Similar situation here for England. Alexander-Arnols sends it in… but there’s no one near it, despite the number of England players around
43 min: Good position for Denmark with not long left in the first half. It’s sent into the box, and comes back out again for a throw in. Eventually it comes to nothing, but England can’t keep giving their opponents these opportunities
38 min: Beautiful turn from Eriksen, who dribbles into the box past his former team-mate Dier. He feeds Dolberg who should do better, but Pickford palms it wide. England clear both resulting corners, and it was Kane both times who’s just happy to be involved
36 min: Sterling gets the ball in a good position, and dribbles to the edge of the six yard box at the byline. He tries to sneak a cross in to Kane, but Denmark have bodies back and get it clear
34 min: The long ball is England’s only outlet at the moment. Both Coady and Gomez are showing off their passing prowess, but once it gets downfield England still can’t get anything going. Not enough creativity through the middle yet
31 min: Braithwaite takes a couple of great touches to take the ball away from Phillips, and he shoots low just past Pickford’s post. More worrying signs for England
27 min: Kane is cutting a frustrated figure. He’s having to come all the way back to the halfway line to get the ball most of the time, and when he does get forward he doesn’t have many options around him.
Eric Dier tries the miracle pass through the middle, and it’s hit way too hard
Unimpressive so far from England. If it stays like this you have to expect some changes at half time
20 min: More danger for England, as Denmark get forward in numbers. It’s hectic in the box, but Poulsen can’t bring the ball under his feet for the shot
19 min: Dolberg finds himself in some space and lashes a shot from the edge of the box, and it’s just inches over the bar and Pickford’s fingertips. Half a chance, but the best effort we’ve had so far
16 min: Wonderful ball across to Alexander-Arnold from Coady, and his cross looks dangerous, but it’s just too close to the keeper.
14 min: A long way out, but potential for a shot… Skov skies it
13 min: Christensen lifts the ball towards Poulsen in the box. Very route one, and it nearly comes off, but he’s not quite tall enough to get his head on it
11 min: Alexander-Arnold ventures forward for the first time and wins a corner for his team. Trippier delivers low towards Sancho on the penalty spot, but he doesn’t get a clean connection on his shot, and it’s cleared away. Pitch looking a bit bobbly there
9 min: Kane has started dropping deeper to help England keep possession, and finally they get something going down the left with Sterling. Denmark get it clear, but England can now start a press of their own
7 min: Sterling is brought down again, but England can’t get anything going forward just yet. A real test for the 3-4-3 at the moment
5 min: Denmark have had the majority of possession so far, with nearly all the action taking place inside England’s half. They’re looking lively, but we’ll have to see how long they can keep these energy levels up. Nothing too troubling for England’s defence so far. Sterling then tries to get off to the races, and is pulled back for a free kick.
3 min: Phillips leaps into action on his debut, cutting in front of his man to steal the ball and get England going downfield
2 min: Denmark are pressing high, and Joe Gomez almost gets into trouble near his own corner flag, but his team-mates bail him out
1 min: Early free kick to Denmark in their own box as Sancho tries to wrestle his way in behind
England get us underway after the players take a knee to highlight the fight against racism. 90 minutes of Nations League action to come
The teams are heading out onto the pitch, ready for the national anthems
England will be running a new system tonight, a 3-4-3 with Trippier and Alexander-Arnold pushing forward and able to drop back when necessary. Expect Sancho on the right, Sterling on the left, and Kane in the middle of the front three. We haven’t seen this from Southgate for a while… will it be a good gamble this evening?
Here’s England boss Gareth Southgate speaking to Sky Sports about the commotion in the England camp:
‘We have had total focus. We dealt with everything yesterday as soon as we left the hotel in Iceland. The players had already trained well and they know that is something they can’t affect. It is something that brings the group tighter together…
‘I was fortunate enough to hand two players their first England shirt today, and we just talked a little about what the badge means. The requirements. To leave the shirt in a better place than you found it. And they know the responsibility that comes with it and the privilege and honour.’
Plenty of other Nations League matches going on tonight, and we’ve got you covered for all those updates as well.
England fans will be interested in the other match in League A Group 2 as Belgium host Iceland. Belgium are ahead of England on goal difference, but the Three Lions will be hoping to overcome that deficit this evening.
Conor Coady and Kalvin Phillips will be looking to impress on their debuts, and they’re out on the pitch warming up right now.
…and the teams are in the building
📍 Parken Stadium
The boss and the boys have arrived! pic.twitter.com/6DLpXFrldM
There have been plenty of off-field incidents over the years. Can Gareth Southgate steer his men despite all the drama?
Here’s a rundown of all the controversial moments surrounding the England team…
Kieran Trippier is starting then, despite an unfortunate accident in training earlier today…
Starting XI: Schmeichel, Skov, Christensen, Zanka, Wass, Delaney, Eriksen, Norgaard, Braithwaite, Dolberg, Poulsen
Here’s why Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood were sent back to the UK this week
Starting XI: Pickford, Alexander-Arnold, Trippier, Coady, Gomez, Dier, Phillips, Rice, Kane, Sterling, Sancho
Subs: Mings, Pope, Keane, Maitland-Niles, Ward-Prowse, Grealish, Mount, Abraham, Ings, Henderson
No Phil Foden or Mason Greenwood of course, after their Covid-restriction-breaking antics in the team hotel this week.
Meanwhile, there are debuts for Conor Coady and Kalvin Phillips.
Two debutants in the #ThreeLions starting line-up tonight!
Congratulations, lads 👏 pic.twitter.com/N1hUpqcu1m
Welcome to Sportsmail’s coverage of England vs Denmark in the UEFA Nations League.
Team news has dropped nice and early, so we’re going to dive right in! Keep it here all night for live coverage of the match and all the build up.