England wrapped up their Nations League campaign with a comfortable 4-0 win over Iceland on Wednesday.
The Three Lions opened the scoring when Phil Foden clipped a free-kick over and Declan Rice glanced a header into the far corner.
Mason Mount then showed good footwork to find space and finish a close-range effort, with Harry Kane and Phil Foden going close in a dominant first half-hour.
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Iceland’s Kari Arnason headed his team’s best effort wide after a near-post corner, before Phil Foden scored twice late in the game to give the scoreline a more realistic look.
Here are five things we learned from the game at Wembley.
One-touch, pass and move
The opposition’s standard meant this wasn’t a test worthy of the name, but England’s players nonetheless showed a good ability to manoeuver the ball out of midfield presses, around tight situations in the channels and through packed defences.
Jack Grealish was an early protagonist, dribbling and roving into the area whenever possible, but he was far from the only one involved in the best moves.
Mason Mount and Declan Rice in the centre and Phil Foden on the opposite side of attack were all regularly involved in quick switches of play, fast-passed exchanges of passes and impressive movement to find spaces between Iceland’s massed ranks.
Together they showed an altogether different way to open up the defence and their build-up work was impressive in its speed as much as its fluidity.
Iceland’s game seemed largely about offering goodbyes, from the poignant to the poetic.
Goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson came on at half-time for his last appearance – the stopper who helped thwart England at Euro 2016.
Wing-back Birkir Mar Saeversson was given an altogether different farewell, dismissed for two yellow cards after 53 minutes.
And indeed there was a farewell to the manager, with Erik Hamren having already decided to stand down from his role before this game and bidding his own tremendously sad goodbye after his father passed away in the week.
Finally, Iceland are also waving goodbye to the Nations League top divisions and a period of renewal will very much begin from now.
Wide forward options
While Kane might be the undisputed starter at centre-forward, Gareth Southgate has hordes of options at his disposal to play on the sides of him.
The typical choices have been Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho or Marcus Rashford: goal-getting, pacy runners in behind the defence, moving in-from-out and offering a counter-attacking threat too.
Now the considerations have to include Grealish, Foden and on occasion Mount, too – though he’s better centrally clearly – and Southgate’s task is to choose how and when to mix and match them all.
Against Belgium last time out the Three Lions could have done with one of the former group at least, with huge spaces behind Belgium’s defence and no natural out-ball beyond Kane, while against Iceland it was clearly the quick touches, movement and vision of pass which were a greater help than pure pace would have been.
Not all of them might make the plane for Euro 2020, so competition for places will come down to club form over the coming few months.
Almost as notable as those pressing their case for inclusion were the names not on show.
Mason Greenwood wasn’t called up, Jordan Henderson left the squad injured, Joe Gomez has a long-term rehabilitation ahead of him and there were similar familiar faces missing in Sterling, Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold, James Ward-Prowse and Conor Coady.
Those, and others, show that the depth is available to Southgate.
Injuries, illness and exposure might all deny players participation from time to time, but the manager has no further games to oversee between now and March anyway – so it’s all about deciding which have shown enough by now to suggest they must be on the plane ahead of those who have missed out this time.
He’ll get plenty more, but Phil Foden tucked away his first goals for England’s senior side late on.
The Man City man should already have scored earlier in the match, but he has shown at club level he’s a decent finisher from inside the penalty area and tucked away a neat strike on the turn from a Jadon Sancho assist – before a laser-like strike followed from outside the box.
Foden still seems typically thought of as a midfield option by some but more often than not he plays wide in the front three for City and certainly did for England, finding gaps between the lines, having licence to rove around as he wished…but always with the capacity to arrive in the penalty area on the end of passing moves.
Considering his last exit from the international stage when he was sent home in disgrace, scoring before the entire team departs this time is a far more appropriate way to wrap up his involvement with the national side.
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