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England 4-0 Iceland: 5 talking points from a dead-rubber win for the Three Lions | UEFA Nations League 2020-21

Scott Newman
Modified 19 Nov 2020, 04:05 IST
Top 5 / Top 10

#3 Iceland were depleted and desperately poor

Iceland looked very poor in tonight
Iceland looked very poor in tonight's game.

It’s now just over four years ago since Iceland shocked the world by dumping England out of Euro 2016 in Nice, and tonight’s game showed how much has changed since then. The Iceland of Euro 2016 sat deep and looked to counter against their opponents. But not only could they counter effectively, they could defend effectively too.

Tonight’s Iceland side could do neither. While they had a couple of decent attacking attempts, the majority came from England being slightly overconfident, which was understandable given the circumstances.

And while they only conceded four goals, if England’s final ball had been slightly better, this game could’ve been a real whitewash. On Sunday, we saw Belgium defend brilliantly against England. Iceland didn’t defend brilliantly tonight; they just managed to save themselves at the last gasp on a number of occasions.

Part of this had to do with the Scandinavians having such a depleted side. Iceland lost the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Johan Berg Gudmundsson, and Aron Gunnarsson, but England’s side was missing key players too, and they were able to replace them.

Essentially, after six straight Nations League losses, it’s pretty clear that the tremendous run Iceland had from 2014 through to 2018 is unfortunately over. And fans of international football will need to find a new underdog side to root for.

#4 Foden gains some redemption with his first England goals

Phil Foden enjoyed a fantastic game and got his first two England goals.
Phil Foden enjoyed a fantastic game and got his first two England goals.

Sunday’s loss to Belgium saw Jack Grealish gain all the plaudits from an England perspective. But while the Aston Villa captain was excellent again tonight, it was Phil Foden who really shone. The Manchester City starlet had a fantastic game, setting up Declan Rice for the opener before scoring his first two England goals late in the second half.

The display will be considered a redemption of sorts for Foden, who, along with Mason Greenwood, was sent home from England’s squad in September after breaking the team’s coronavirus protocol by inviting Icelandic models to their hotel in Reykjavik. 

Greenwood has not returned to the England setup since, as his attitude has now been questioned by his club Manchester United too. But Foden has kept his head down, and his recent performances for City definitely warranted him another call-up.

Tonight, Foden took his chance with both hands, and now the 20-year old must surely be in contention for a starting spot at next summer’s European Championship. While he played as a wide forward tonight, it’s also easy to imagine him competing with Mason Mount for a spot in central midfield, too.

Either way, he took his goals brilliantly tonight, and the future is definitely bright for him.

#5 Will Southgate be able to work out his best side by the time the Euros begin?

England boss Gareth Southgate must work out his best side before next year
England boss Gareth Southgate must work out his best side before next year's European Championship.

With just three international games remaining before next summer’s European Championship, England fans were probably hoping that Gareth Southgate would know exactly the kind of first XI and system he’d be using by the time the tournament comes around.

However, the last few months of action have thrown up far more questions than answers. And tonight’s dead rubber with a depleted squad won’t have helped matters. Should Southgate stick to the 3-4-3 system he’s used in the most recent games? Or should he revert to the 4-3-3 that served England so well in late 2018 and in 2019?

And if he goes for the former, does he play to England’s strengths by selecting one attacking midfielder? Or frustratingly, does he use two holding midfielders, clinging to an idea of conservatism and being solid at the back?

And that isn’t even discussing the personnel that Southgate should select. Realistically, only Harry Kane and perhaps Ben Chilwell seem to have their starting spots sewn up at this stage. Should Southgate look to use the pace of Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford in attack, or should he go with the guile of Jack Grealish and Phil Foden? And would there be a way to fit them all in?


Essentially, the England boss needs to settle on a side and a system sooner rather than later. Otherwise, he risks heading into the Euros in the same way that Roy Hodgson did in 2016 – without a concrete plan and looking to throw things together and hoping that they stick.

Which, as we saw in that infamous loss to Iceland, doesn’t always work so well.

Published 19 Nov 2020, 04:05 IST
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