England 4-0 Iceland
Rice (20′), Mount (24′), Foden (80′, 84′)
Saevarsson (OFF 54′)
England knew they were finishing 3rd. Iceland knew they were finishing 4th. This was a dead rubber, a dead rubber so dead it was practically fossilised. Mind you – it still had a little bounce.
It was the end of a disappointing week, but a disappointing week of good performances. In a 4-0 win, Gareth Southgate named a first-string England side set up in the variant of the 3-4-3 formation on which he seems to have settled. With the manager refusing to leave weapons unfired, it was – in the words of the ever-erudite Gadsby Sr. – a “real fuckoff to the clubs.” If the managers of the nine Premier League clubs represented out there tonight were expecting a night off from worrying about their players brittle bodies, they were sorely mistaken.
Thankfully, there were no injuries, and you doubt many of the players will be suffering too much from fatigue after an evening in which England never had to get out of second gear. Iceland arrived at Wembley with one thing in mind: one point. Their slim hopes were dashed relatively early on, with two England goals in the first 25 minutes.
The first half belonged to Bukayo Saka, his energy, his nimbleness, his almost neurotic obsession with the give-and-go. England’s second goal was a product of the perma-inter-play which manifested itself on the left flank throughout the entirety of the opening 45 thanks to his efforts. Saka, Grealish and Mount combined before the latter found himself with the ball at his feet eight yards from goal. He chopped inside an Iceland defender with his right foot before finishing with his left.
Mount too was excellent tonight, lining up in a midfield two just as he had in England’s impressive 3-0 victory over Ireland on Thursday night. It was his 13th cap and his fifth start in a row; Southgate values his tactical discipline and he has performed remarkably well in a more withdrawn midfield role than that to which he is accustomed.
England had taken the lead just five minutes prior to Mount’s goal. Jack Grealish – who remained in the side after so impressing against the Republic of Ireland and Belgium – won a free-kick, as he tends to do. Grealish whipped the ball deliciously across the face of goal and Declan Rice connected to head home his first England goal.
Saka was instrumental once again in the second half, earning the foul which reduced Iceland to ten men. He negotiated a space for himself on the edge of the area, running giddily into the patch of green before being pulled back by Birkir Mar Saevarsson, already on a yellow. From that moment on, Iceland grew more introverted, shrinking into themselves at every opportunity.
The away side switched goalkeepers at half-time, replacing Ogmundru Kristinsson – who had been Iceland’s saving grace in the first-half – with Hannes Halldorsson, the part-timer whose Wikipedia page lists him as a filmmaker before a footballer. The first 35 minutes of the second half were paced less like a white-knuckle thriller and more like a ludicrously comprehensive Dickens novel, with England looking for plot holes in the Iceland defence with exhausting patience.
They found a way through eventually, substitute Jadon Sancho playing a one-two with Saka before tip-toeing into the area and feigning to shoot before teeing up Phil Foden. He swept the ball home and England had three. Barely four minutes late r and England had another. It was Foden again, only this time it was all his own work. A laser-guided shot from 25 yards made it 4-0 and England’s dominance was finally reflected on the scoreboard.
In the end, England’s last competitive match before the Euros was anything but. Their three centre-halves played more like auxiliary midfielders, their duties beginning on the halfway line. It was an overwhelmingly competent display in a match which provided little opportunity for incompetence.
2 Walker (Booked 12’) (Mings 64′)
3 Trippier (Maitland-Niles 85)’
7 Mount (Winks 64′)
16 Grealish (Sancho 76′)
9 Kane (Abraham 76′)
12 Kristinsson (Halldórsson 45′)
2 Saevarsson (Booked 54’)
5 Ingason (Booked 49’)
14 Árnason (Booked 72’)
23 AF Skúlason
8 Bjarnason (Jóhannesson 88′)
16 Sigurjónsson (Eyjólfsson 62′)
20 Gudmundsson (Thorsteinsson 73′)
22 Bödvarsson (Sigthorsson 73′)