Roy Hodgson praised the contribution of his younger players as England secured a late victory over Denmark, the manager drawing encouragement from a laboured occasion, but it was left to his opposite number, Morten Olsen, to sum up the general mood at the national stadium. "I wish you good luck in the World Cup," offered the Dane. "You need it."

Daniel Sturridge's goal eight minutes from time ensured Hodgson's side did not endure a third successive scoreless occasion in the final fixture before the manager names his 23-man squad, and seven stand-by players, on 13 May for Brazil.

That deadline heaped more importance on this fixture and while the side lacked penetration for long periods against opponents who had lost 4-0 at home to Armenia while failing to qualify for the World Cup, the manager took heart from the youngsters' contributions.

"The second-half performance in particular, the young players, the energy we brought to the game, and the determination to get beyond a packed Danish defence even though we'd done it on quite a few occasions only to find a goalkeeper [Kasper Schmeichel] in outstanding form, those were the positives," said Hodgson.

"The victory, too, and the fact we put a lot of youngish players on the pitch who haven't played a lot for England, and they did a good job and improved their chances. The level of competition is getting greater.

"I wanted the young players to have a chance to get out there and play and I'm sure Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana will go back to Southampton feeling very positive. Lallana was very good. Very, very good. But we've been building this up over the last couple of years. This wasn't the first time Raheem Sterling has got a game, or Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Chris Smalling or Jack Wilshere. I'd just like to think these players will grow in confidence playing in the Premier League for their club sides over the remainder of the season.

"This was an important game tonight, and it was important we put in a good performance. I wanted a level of energy, with players running back when they lost the ball, making tackles from the wrong side, not being afraid to make mistakes knowing, with their pace, they can recover. That's what I did see, and we put the icing on the cake with the goal to win it. The younger players are doing well at the moment. Hopefully people will be impressed with their performances, and I'll have to make a decision going forward."

While Sterling, on a first Wembley appearance for his country, was bright, arguably the most eye-catching cameo came from Lallana whose clever turn and cross was nodded home by Sturridge for the only goal. "It was nice to get a chance to impress the boss and, more importantly, to get the win after two defeats [against Chile and Germany last November]," he said. "I gave it my best and that's all I can do. It's not for me to judge how well I played. I will go back to my club and keep performing well and working hard and hopefully I will be involved in the squad at the end of the season."

There were areas of concern as well, with Sturridge arguably more effective once Wayne Rooney had been withdrawn. Hodgson will have noted both Ashley Cole, on his 107th appearance, and Shaw impressed at left-back and with Leighton Baines given the evening off, there is a decision to be made as to which of the pair travels to Brazil. "They were both very good," said Hodgson, who confirmed Wilshere had only suffered bruising to his foot in an early clash with Daniel Agger. "Ashley got forward and his defending was good, and Luke carried on in the same way. It's a tougher decision now, yes, but there are a lot of matches still to be played.

"I'll see a lot of Luke Shaw, Leighton Baines and hopefully Ashley Cole in the coming months. I wasn't surprised with Ashley. I'm a great admirer of him. To play 107 times for England and be the best in the world for so long demands respect. I've watched him in training and he's been unbelievably good, and very fit‚ right at the top of the running statistics , so there's no question about his fitness. But he's a specialist player. You don't normally play two left-backs in the team and at the moment his manager at club level prefers someone else."