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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at Wembley Stadium

England sign off with another Wembley whimper as Iceland curb home side's Euro enthusiasm : talking points from an impoverished display

England 0-1 Iceland

The match that was supposed to offer Gareth Southgate a final chance to weigh up his options for the Euros did not even have that going for it in the end.

It was another of those friendlies where the paper darts were generating more excitement for the younger fans than the match itself, which you'd have to file under F for forgettable and futile.

The stands were half deserted for the last knockings as dads with their offspring tried to beat the crowds.

This is a fixture which continues to cause problems for England, still perhaps haunted by that abject defeat to the Nordic islanders in the French Euros of 2016 - even if there have been two Nations League wins against the Icelanders since then.

In truth, though, there was no obvious signs of home motivation out there to exorcise those lingering demons. The players on duty had all won places on the plane to Germany so had little reason to bust a gut. Iceland, well organised and determined, wanted this souvenir win much more.

Southgate had been due to announce his 26-man squad for the Euros after this final fixture of the season before the tournament, but knew he had already seen enough to make up his mind about the seven who wouldn't be making the cut.

That took away much of the jeopardy - not that there would have been too much of that in any case.

What we had was a confirmation that a post-Harry Maguire England is no less immune to defensive frailties than it was when the accident-prone centre half is around.

All it took was some fast, direct running to cut the Three Lions open - Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson, once on Fulham's books, drilling home as John Stones failed to close him down.

Aaron Ramsdale, a bit rusty after so many weeks of inaction, looked a little slow getting down. Stones' half-time withdrawal was hopefully just a precaution after he picked up an early knock.

And England were badly exposed again in the second half by a simple attack down the right when a flat-footed defence was suddenly all at sea and should have gone 2-0 down.

Soon after, centre back Sverrir Ingason almost headed home from close range. A great left-foot volley from outside the box from Kolbeinn Finnsson almost beat Ramsdale.

In short, Iceland created by far the better chances.

Ezri Konsa deputised for Stones but the defence still looked less than world class - Kyle Walker excepted. Kieran Trippier was out of position at left back and Marc Guehi still looks like a man trying to nail down a position, rather than making a big case to be first choice.

The creative side of things weren't that great either for Gareth Southgate. Anthony Gordon offered good options wide on the left, but without being able to provide that killer cross. Cole Palmer and Phil Foden teased out half-chances with their control and deftness, but faded along with the accuracy in their boots.

What is certain is that this is not the XI that will start the Euros against Serbia a week on Sunday in Gelsenkirchen. Bukayo Saka, Jude Bellingham and Trent Alexander-Arnold should come into the mix.

Two of those three came on as subs, though Real Madrid star Bellingham is off duty after the Champions League exploits of last week. The newcomers made little difference, however, as England made it three home games at Wembley in 2024 without a win.

This loss follows the 1-0 defeat to Brazil and 2-2 draw with Belgium a few months ago. Even the one they didn't lose owed salvation to a last-gasp strike from Bellingham. They are going to need him in Deutschland.



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