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England fails to convince in 1-1 draw with Denmark though should advance at Euro 2024

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Where England stands after two European Championship games is the envy of most teams. Just not good enough yet to have title ambitions.

A 1-1 draw Thursday with Denmark — a semifinalist last time, don’t forget — means England is unbeaten and all-but certain to advance to the round of 16.

It also was a slack, mistake-filled display that left coach Gareth Southgate angrily gesturing at his players for gifting a slew of scoring chances late in the game.

“The team didn’t function today, that is my responsibility,” said Southgate, who heard jeers from fans behind the England goal in a ragged second half.

Harry Kane gave England another fast start at Euro 2024, scoring it the 18th minute, but the captain was substituted off in the second half as the team faded.

Denmark leveled in the 34th when Morten Hjulmand fired in a powerful low shot from long distance, after Kane gave away the ball in defense.

Eight years with Southgate has earned England sustained tournament success. The Three Lions reached the final of Euro 2020 — after beating Denmark in the last four — and a semifinal and a quarterfinal at the past two World Cups.

“We’re in the environment of winning on the biggest stage,” the coach acknowledged, adding “you have to accept what (criticism) comes our way.”

England has never won back-to-back games to begin a Euros and a pattern of second-game syndrome has repeated at three straight tournaments.

Opening wins in the past three years have been following by tepid 0-0 draws with Scotland and the United States, now a 1-1 with the Danes who deserved more.

“I can't say we are disappointed but it’s a shame,” Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand said. "There is a result we could have gotten.”

Still, England started Euro 2024 by beating Serbia 1-0 and now sits top of Group C with four points. That tally always has been enough to advance in the 24-team Euros format where four third-place teams from the six groups go forward to the round of 16.

England can finish in any position from first to third in the Group C standings after playing unbeaten Slovenia next Tuesday.

Slovenia drew 1-1 with Serbia earlier Thursday, four days after getting the same result against Denmark. Serbia meets Denmark in their final games also on Tuesday evening.

Southgate had defended his players from what seemed like unfair criticism for the nervy nature of the win against Serbia, ceding some control after Jude Bellingham's early goal.

Bellingham was subdued Thursday and Southgate removed the stellar strike trio of Kane, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka in one sweep in the 69th. Jarrod Bowen, Eberechi Eze, Ollie Watkins came on and within two minutes Watkins almost scored with a shot after a darting run.

The coach's patience seemed to run out in the 85th when his players repeatedly gave away the ball and surrendered scoring chances. He gestured from the sideline with both index fingers pointing to his temples, urging them to think more.

England had led by seizing on sleepiness in the Denmark defense. Hesitation by Victor Kristiansen let right-back Kyle Walker surge past him to steal the ball for a pass across the goalmouth.

When the ball reached Kane he poked home a left-footed shot for a record extending 64th England goal for the captain.

Kane had his part in Denmark’s leveler. His unwise pass out of defense soon went to Hjulmand, who strode forward to fire a low shot past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and in the net off his right-hand post.

The game was played beneath a closed stadium roof on slippery turf that cut up after steady rain this week.

The teams had royal watchers from the stands with the king of Denmark, Frederik X, and future king of England, Prince William, at the game.

An England team packed with aristocrats of club soccer and stars of the Champions League looked more common on Thursday.

“To achieve extraordinary things you have got to go through some difficult moments,” said Southgate, whose team typically sticks around for the final week. “Today was a difficult moment without a doubt.”

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AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024