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Liverpool's Internationals Recap: England Stay Top, Denmark Stay Alive (Barely)

After Belgium easily locked down first in Group A while Simon Mignolet watched from the bench, things got a lot more interesting for Liverpool's players with Denmark looking to keep hope alive and England hoping to wrap up top spot.

Ian Walton

Denmark 2, Italy 2

Denmark Bendtner 45+1', 79'
Italy Osvaldo 28', Aquilani 90+1'

After Armenia beat Bulgaria earlier in the day, Denmark went into their match against Italy knowing a draw would pull them level with the Bulgarians and a win would put them in poll position to advance to the playoff for second place finishers. Perhaps, given their tendency towards utilizing a conservative approach under Morten Olsen, it shouldn't have been surprising that Denmark came out looking like they'd be happy to take the draw and leave everything to Tuesday's results, when the Danes will face bottom feeders Malta and Bulgaria have the tougher task of playing the Czech Republic.

Their cautious approach didn't work for very long, as in the 28th minute Pablo Osvaldo embarrassed Daniel Agger and scored to give Italy the lead. Needing to push forward to at least reclaim a level scoreline, Denmark struggled to cause a comfortable Italian defence much trouble despite holding possession for long stretches. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a sloppy piece of marking in stoppage time allowed Denmark to go into the half on terms. With the second half looking like it wasn't going anywhere, Bendtner struck again in the 79th minute, heading home a Krohn-Dehli cross that appeared to put Denmark's fate in their own hands.

It wasn't to last, as despite having already wrapped up first place, Italy pushed hard to equalise as the clock ticked down. A minute into stoppage time, Denmark lost their victory when Alberto Aquilani bundled home from close range. Denmark are now level with Bulgaria and on paper have an easier opponent on Tuesday, but as the Bulgarians hold the goal advantage edge the Danes will have to better their result to finish ahead of them.*

England 4, Montenegro 1

England Rooney 48', Boskovic 62' (OG), Townsend 78', Sturridge 90+3' (pen)
Montenegro Damjanovic 71'

A relatively adventurous lineup for England saw Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard set up in midfield behind Wayne Rooney, playing in the hole just off Daniel Sturridge while Danny Welbeck and Andros Townsend manned the wings. The hosts came out firing at Wembley, pinning Montenegro back and suggesting that any failure to secure qualification before the ninety was up couldn't be pinned on a lack of attacking intent. The pressure unsettled Montenegro early, but having survived the opening third of the match, the visitors began to find their feet, looking intermittently dangerous on the counter.

It meant a fairly enjoyable opening half for the neutral despite the scoreline, and on another night Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge might both have had goals from half chances that didn't quite go their way on this evening. The second half, though, quickly gave England the edge their play deserved when Rooney buried the rebound from a Danny Welbeck effort. Fifteen minutes later, a backheel flick by Daniel Sturridge sent Welbeck on goal, and when his attempt to drive in a low cross ended up as an own goal for Branko Boskovic, the game seemed all but over

A late, instinctive strike by Dejan Damjanovic made things interesting for a time, but England were clearly the better side and late goals by Townsend from open play and Sturridge from the penalty spot sealed it. And while the win means England stay top and are assured a top two finish, Ukraine defeating Poland elsewhere in Group H means Roy Hodgson's side must win again on Tuesday to ensure they finish top and avoid heading to the playoff.

*And it still may not matter, since as pretzalz points out in the comments, Denmark would at best be level on points with Group D side Turkey or Romania as the eighth of nine second place finishers—with only the top eight making it to the playoff. Even that would take both losing on Tuesday, and even then the goal differential battle would mean Turkey would need to lose by four to Netherlands. Otherwise it's game over for Denmark.

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