Phil Foden opened his England account with a double as Gareth Southgate’s side ended their Nations League campaign on a high with a 4-0 victory over 10-man Iceland.
Defeat to Belgium on Sunday had ensured Wednesday’s Group A2 meeting at Wembley was a dead rubber, but England’s youthful team nevertheless turned in an impressive display.
Making his first competitive England appearance since breaking coronavirus protocol after a victory over Iceland in September, Foden marked his return in style, setting up Declan Rice’s opener before adding further gloss to a routine win with a superbly taken brace.
Mason Mount had doubled England’s tally, with Birkir Mar Saevarsson’s red card for a second bookable offence all but ending any comeback hopes for outgoing Iceland coach Erik Hamren.
For differing reasons, Jack Grealish and Foden were the big stories heading into the game and the two playmakers combined for England’s 20th-minute opener.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 18, 2020
Rice was the benefactor, heading in his maiden England goal from Foden’s free-kick, which was won by Grealish, who moments later teed up Bukayo Saka.
The Arsenal youngster failed to beat Ogmundur Kristinsson, but Mount made no such mistake with England’s next chance, coolly prodding in after latching onto Harry Kane’s knockdown.
Harry Maguire’s marauding run forward resulted in a fine pass through for Foden, whose shot was charged down by Kristinsson, who then denied the midfielder again before Kane curled wide.
Iceland’s hopes seemed to have been extinguished nine minutes into the second half – Saevarsson receiving a second yellow for pulling back Saka.
Kari Arnason might have changed that, yet he headed wide from Ari Freyr Skulason’s corner.
Yet England had the third goal their dominance deserved in the 80th minute when Foden swept home from Jadon Sancho’s cutback.
The 20-year-old Foden was not done there, however, and capped off a fine individual display with a thumping strike into the bottom-right corner.
What does it mean? Southgate’s system finally clicks
England have now remained unbeaten in their final game of a calendar year in each of the last seven years (W5 D2), since a 1-0 defeat to Germany in 2013. And though it has been a frustrating Nations League campaign, Southgate’s 3-4-3 formation clicked in style on Wednesday.
The trick now will be if Southgate can find a winning formula at the back to provide the platform for the likes of Grealish, Foden and England’s other young guns to do the damage.
The kids are all right
England had four players aged 21 or younger – Saka, Foden, Rice and Mount – in the starting XI for a competitive international for the first time since November 1959 against Northern Ireland, and the youngsters did not let Southgate down.
Foden – the youngest player to score twice in the same match for the national team at Wembley – was the pick of the bunch, and his strikes meant England had three players aged 21 or younger score in the same match for the first time since February 1883.
Hamren’s Iceland tenure ends with a whimper
Hamren has taken the decision to step down after this match and Iceland’s new coach will face something of a rebuild.
Having taken over after the 2018 World Cup, Hamren has failed to lead Iceland to a third successive major tournament and, on Wednesday, his team mustered just two attempts, failing to test Jordan Pickford at all, and they had only 21.7 per cent of possession.
Both of these sides will next be in action during the March international break, with World Cup 2022 qualifying set to start.
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