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England freeze during shock defeat to Iceland in final friendly before Euro 2024
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Simon Peach
Press Association
England suffered a shock defeat to Iceland at Wembley (Mike Egerton/PA)
England suffered a shock defeat to Iceland at Wembley (Mike Egerton/PA)

England’s last match before Euro 2024 ended in boos at the final whistle after Gareth Southgate’s side stumbled to a defeat against Iceland that was as disappointing as it was surprising.

What was supposed to be a relatively straightforward send-off friendly instead ended in an alarming loss to a nation that will be watching this summer’s tournament from afar.

Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson put Iceland into a shock early lead and lacklustre England could not find a response on a night when poor finishing prevented the scoreline from being any worse than 1-0.

Southgate had named his final 26-man squad for the Euros on the eve of the friendly in a bid to avoid distraction, but perhaps it made those involved too content and fearful about injuries.

Losing to the side 72nd in the world rankings certainly provides more questions than answers, especially given the way they managed to open England up at times.

Iceland’s winner came from all too easily slicing through the hosts in the 12th minute, with goalscorer Thorsteinsson also wasting a glorious chance at a second after the visitors got in behind.

This was more about fitness than result for Southgate’s side, but looking open defensively and toothless at the other end, managing just one shot on target, is far from ideal nine days out from facing Serbia.

Wembley quickly emptied at the end of a night that started with John Stones being landed on awkwardly by Thorsteinsson, who was soon proving a pain of another kind.

England had started well enough but all too easily allowed Iceland to play from back to front in the 12th minute, breaking the lines and exposing space in a move that ended with a confident finish.

Thorsteinsson cut away from Stones just inside the box to strike a low effort through the defender’s legs and beyond back-up goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale’s reach.

England’s response to the setback was passive despite bossing possession.

Fleet-footed Anthony Gordon ballooned over and fellow forward Cole Palmer saw an effort blocked after Declan Rice’s pressing forced goalkeeper Hakon Rafn Valdimarsson into an error.

The Chelsea man star, one of just three players to start both warm-up games, saw a fantastic clipped cross uncharacteristically volleyed over by Harry Kane from close range.

England remained patient as they probed against well-drilled Iceland, who may have had a second just before the break had Marc Guehi not thrown himself in the way of Arnor Ingvi Traustason’s attempt.

Some boos greeted the half-time whistle and Ezri Konsa replaced Stones when play resumed.

The hosts were now showing more intensity. Phil Foden flashed a first-time shot from a Gordon cutback across the face of goal and Palmer struck the side-netting having gone too wide.

The 22-year-old’s indecision saw him waste an even better chance after rounding Valdimarsson soon after.

Iceland were sat deep and offered little in the way of danger, only to blow an almighty chance to go 2-0 up in the 63rd minute.

Hakon Arnar Haraldsson bent his run to beat the offside trap, burst behind England’s backline and eventually squared for Thorsteinsson, only for the goalscorer to slip and miss the chance.

Southgate immediately made a pre-planned quadruple change – including introducing Bukayo Saka – before Ramsdale denied Sverrir Ingason’s header from a corner.

Play was halted after Guehi took a ball to the side of his head and an outrageous looping volley from Kolbeinn Finnsson forced Ramsdale to push over.

England struggled to muster a response and fans began to stream towards the exit before stoppage-time was announced.

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s low cross whizzed just across the face of goal via a deflection and full-time brought boos from those left in the ground.


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