Denmark scored three goals in seven second-half minutes as England were humiliated in their final game before their World Cup qualifier in Wales.
Charlton's Dennis Rommedahl scored from two yards after goalkeeper David James had rashly rushed from his goal.
Rommedahl passed for Jon Dahl Tomasson to score, while Michael Gravgaard headed a corner against Steven Gerrard and into the England net.
Wayne Rooney scored a late consolation before Soren Larsen made it 4-1.
All things considered the match - England's worst defeat since losing to Wales in May 1980 - turned into everything Sven-Goran Eriksson did not want ahead of the crunch qualifier in Cardiff.
FAMOUS ENGLAND SLIP-UPS
USA 1-0 England - World Cup 1950
England 0-0 Saudi Arabia - Friendly 1998
England 2-2 Macedonia - World Cup qualifier 2002
USA 2-0 England - Friendly 1993
England 1-3 Australia - Friendly 2003
Defoe - expected to start against Wales with Michael Owen suspended - was replaced at half time after 45 minutes in which he did little to state his case for inclusion.
And England's defence looked brittle under pressure after starting the second half poorly. Only Rooney, as feisty and committed as always, really stood out for the visitors.
Denmark, on the other hand, stated their intent from the off, starting the match at a tempo more suited to a qualifier than a friendly.
Once England adjusted they did create chances, with Frank Lampard and David Beckham both peppering the goal inside the opening 15 minutes - the captain's low drive narrowly missing.
A poor pass from keeper Sorensen gifted the ball to Beckham but Defoe could not quite meet his skipper's cross and the Danish keeper eventually gathered the ball.
An error from Sorensen cost his team a goal when the two sides met at the 2002 World Cup and England had almost profited from his charity once again.
Defoe, desperate to impress, failed to convert an even better chance after 30 minutes.
The Tottenham striker made a poor contact with a low cross from Gerrard, though his strike nonetheless was well placed and forced a decent save from Sorensen.
Rooney had the ball in the net but the goal was ruled out for a foul on Per Nielsen, while the 19-year-old should have been awarded a penalty after he was held back by Christian Poulsen but the infringement went unnoticed.
Eriksson made four substitutions at the break, including the introduction of Owen for Defoe - but the England coach's plans soon lay in tatters.
James tried to cut out a raking cross-field pass but intended target Tomasson kept his calm to elude the keeper before crossing from the byeline for Rommedahl to tap home.
The compliment was soon returned as Claus Jensen's cross was half-cleared to Rommedahl, who headed the ball for Tomasson to convert from three yards.
England's misery was compounded when Gravgaard met a header and the ball went into the England net, seemingly taking a deflected off Gerrard on the way.
It might have got worse but Poulsen headed straight at James when well placed before Rooney scored a consolation with a tidy right-foot finish after connecting with a through ball.
But the goals had not finished, with Larsen out-stretching Rio Ferdinand before poking the ball past the beleaguered James.
Denmark: Sorensen, Agger, Nielsen (Gravgaard 46), Niclas Jensen, Priske, Poulsen (Daniel Jensen 87), Gravesen, Gronkjaer (Rommedahl 46), Claus Jensen (Perez 75), Tomasson (Larsen 64), Jorgensen (Kahlenberg 46).
Subs Not Used: Christiansen, Gaardsoe, Bogelund, Jepsen, Skoubo.
Goals: Rommedahl 60, Tomasson 63, Gravgaard 67, Larsen 90.
England: Robinson (James 46), Gary Neville (Johnson 46), Ashley Cole, Terry (Carragher 46), Ferdinand, Gerrard (Jenas 84), Lampard (Hargreaves 64), Beckham, Joe Cole, Rooney, Defoe (Owen 46).
Subs Not Used: Green, Phil Neville, Upson, Carrick, Bent.
Booked: Johnson, Ashley Cole.
Goals: Rooney 87.
Ref: Tom Ovrebo (Norway).