England’s young stars prove they want to play despite Premier League pressure
Gareth Southgate insisted his players all desperately wanted to play for England and they proved him right in style here.
First-half goals from best mates Declan Rice and Mason Mount put the Three Lions in control, and Phil Foden then added a brace against ten-man Iceland.
For Manchester City starlet Foden, who also had an assist, it was sweet redemption two months after being axed for breaking Coronavirus rules.
But it was the way England competed all over the pitch, with Jack Grealish again sparkling and Harry Kane putting a real shift in, that most impressed.
After all, as dead rubbers go, this one was right up there. After Sunday’s defeat to Belgium, Southgate’s injury-hit squad were not going any further in the Nations League.
And to top it off, already-relegated Iceland had already sent home many of their top stars ahead of coach Erik Hamren’s final game before stepping down.
But the England manager insists they all count ahead of next summer’s Euros, assuming that goes ahead in these uncertain times.
And he also claimed that despite unprecedented pressure from their club managers not to play for their country, his players DO all want to.
That was definitely the case here, when the majority could easily have had the night off, or at least taken their foot off the gas.
Rice scoring his first goal for England, Foden’s sizzling display of guile and class, and Mason Mount adding creativity from midfield were the big pluses.
But it was a good night all round for the England manager after he was heavily criticised for the manner of his side’s defeat against the Belgians.
For a team with nothing to play for, Iceland almost caught the home side out twice early on with some simple long-ball football.
But England went in front from a free kick whipped in by Foden which Rice glanced into the far corner with his shoulder.
The West Ham midfielder looked a tad offside but with no VAR the goal stood and suddenly England were buzzing.
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Bukayo Saka was only denied by a fine reaction save from Ogmundur Kristinsson before Mount made it two, arriving late in the box after Iceland failed to clear their lines.
England were cooking, with Harry Maguire striding forward and picking out Foden with a brilliant ball for a shot which Kristinsson saved.
He denied Foden again before the half was over, but things only got worse for Iceland when Birkir Saevarsson was sent off in the 54th minute.
Saevarsson had already been booked when he tugged back Saka, and got his marching orders from Portuguese referee Fabio Jose Costa Verissimo.
England were enjoying themselves so much by this point they even let Eric Dier take a free kick.
They were given a scare when Iceland skipper Karii Arnason wriggled free to head a corner wide when he really should have scored.
But Foden put the gloss on a routine win to score the third after a good one-two between Saka and Jadon Sancho.
And just to rub it in, he then smashed home a long-rage fourth to become the youngest England player ever to score more than once in a match at Wembley.
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