The Test Of Barcelona Awaits Jack Wilshere

A breezy victory seemed to promise that a wind of change could yet blow through England. There are many more potent teams than a Denmark side who could not sustain their early verve, but the prospect of Fabio Capello leaving behind a rising force when he stands down in the summer of next year did not seem quite so far-fetched. The pleasing aspects were dominated by the showing of Arsenal's 19-year-old Jack Wilshere in his first start for his country.

The England manager got as near to excitability as is feasible for such a pragmatist when he thought of the youngster meeting Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League. "The games will be really strong. It will be really interesting for me. For England the game [Denmark] played here was interesting because they played a lot of passes and had possession, although Barcelona are a little bit better," he said.

That wry comment at the end showed that the sceptic in him had not been given the night off in Copenhagen. Capello was still ready to go along with any suggestion of regeneration, which will be tested in next month's Euro 2012 qualifier against Wales in Cardiff. Where young players are concerned the evidence is inevitably thin, but the manager liked the notion that a new generation is gathering, even if it still has a great deal to prove.

Jordan Henderson, Kieran Gibbs and Andy Carroll all started in the friendly with France three months ago, ensuring that not too much attention was paid to the defeat itself. None of that trio took part in Denmark but Carroll, having moved from Newcastle United to Liverpool for a price of £35m, will be under even more scrutiny when he is free of injury. England fans, all the same, are straining so hard for optimism that they themselves are likely to pull a muscle.

Capello thought it best to emphasise that Carroll was with Newcastle in the Championship only last season. The manager is too realistic to be elated. He may even have thought it helpful that Wilshere should find himself overshadowed by an opponent who is six weeks younger. Christian Eriksen has evidently not been demoralised by his country's poor efforts at last summer's World Cup, where Morten Olsen's side went out in the group stage. The Ajax midfielder dominated play in Copenhagen to a degree that is not yet within Wilshere's scope.

There are questions that will have to be answered for Wilshere to be accommodated. He was paired with Frank Lampard in the centre of a four-man midfield and the sight of England playing a traditional 4-4-2 gave the stadium the tone of a football theme park. Wilshere had to defend, but it is not yet in his repertoire to do so with conviction. He is still at a point in his career when the game is more about enjoying possession than forcing the opposition to lose the ball.

Lampard is no holding midfielder, yet after injury it will not be simple for a 32-year-old to resume his surges into attack. The combination with Wilshere is one Capello would have ruled out if there had been anything at stake against Denmark. His true feelings were on view as Wilshere and Lampard were both replaced at the interval. The modest participation will have pleased their club managers, but it was also in England's interest when there was a match to be won.

Capello took an obvious course. With Gareth Barry and Scott Parker brought on, there was barbed wire in front of the defence. That heightened stability brought the side greater balance. After conceding an opening goal to Daniel Agger, England were caught up in a game that was probably too volatile for managers whose original intentions had barely lasted beyond kick-off. The equaliser, from Theo Walcott's low ball, was turned in by Darren Bent, who recorded his second goal for England.

Minds, even so, will dwell on a chance not converted. After Thomas Sorensen had parried an attempt from Bent, Rooney took the ball round the goalkeeper and saw his shot blocked by Mathias Jorgensen. It was impossible not to think that in previous, exuberant times Rooney would have had a trick or a feint to get an inconvenient defender out of his path. As it was, the 25-year-old was earnest and busy while leaving everyone to wonder when that instinctive imagination of his will resurface.

Rooney has scored one goal for England since September 2009. At least the side are learning not to count on him and it was pleasing that the winner should come from the substitute Ashley Young. In a friendly against Denmark, England can do without Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and others. The Euro 2012 finals would be a different matter, but Capello was right to be heartened a little by the victory.

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