Phil Foden takes centre stage as England end 2020 by beating Iceland
Phil Foden netted twice as England’s new generation staked their claim for a place at next summer’s European Championship and brought a challenging year to a convincing end against Iceland.
From Harry Maguire’s Greek court case and the high-profile bubble breach by Mason Greenwood and Foden, to injury headaches, empty stands and his own bout of Covid-19, this has been a tough autumn for Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate.
But a strange, testing and truncated international year came to a comfortable conclusion at Wembley, where Foden netting his first England goals after Declan Rice and Mason Mount efforts to seal a 4-0 win.
Southgate kept to his pre-match pledge to name a strong side for the final match of 2020, despite Sunday’s loss in Belgium meaning the Three Lions would end up third in Group A2 having finished third in the inaugural Nations League.
Juggling player protection, club pressures and the need to progress ahead of the Euros, England’s starting line-up for the dead rubber against relegated Iceland included four players aged 21 or younger in a competitive match for the first time since 1959.
Foden – making his first start since the Iceland incident that saw him sent home in September – was among that quartet and sent a free-kick over for another of those youngsters to score his first Three Lions goal as Rice glanced home.
The others were soon involved as Iceland failed to deal with a Bukayo Saka cross and Mount smartly struck home during a one-sided first half in which England got away 10 shots and Jack Grealish again impressed.
Birkir Saevarsson was sent off for a second bookable offence as matters worsened early in the second half for Iceland, who could have been playing this Group A2 finale in Albania or Germany was it not for a UK government exemption.
England remained on top with their man advantage and Foden came to the fore late on, swiftly following up his first international goal with a laser from distance.