Phil Foden is good.
Some Barney Ronay for you ...
And that, dear readers brings this MBM to its graceful conclusion. Happily, David Hytner’s match report has landed. Here it is. Click and enjoy ... and thanks for reading this live blog. Nighty night!
Gareth Southgate’s verdict. “For the last three days their mentality has been outstanding. Whenever you play for England there is something to play for. We’re trying to build and improve all the time. Our football was good to watch and for the young ones to get the goals was special. Most of our squad will peak in three to five years time. We think it’s worth investing the time in them. We’re still working on the balance of profiles of players for the system. It was good to see Bukayo again, he has had three excellent performances this week, especially for someone so young. It was good to see Mason in that central area again. Our attacking play was good, right from the back they built so well. [Some young players] are still growing physically, they’re still light. Wonderful technicians but they can get overpowered and you play Portugal or France and it’s land of the giants and you have to cope with that. They’re going to have another five months with their clubs where they’ll play big games and learn even more. I’m really pleased for Foden, he’s such an exciting player.”
A sweet sub-plot to this match: Declan Rice and Mason Mount have been besties since they were eight years old ... and now they’ve just played for their country, next to each other in midfield, both getting on the scoresheet. Both young men with smiles as wide as Wembley as they explain all this to Sky. A lovely interview that’ll no doubt get played once or twice again.
Here’s a stat that bodes well for the future: this is the first time since February 1883 that England have had three scorers aged 21 or under in the same game. One of those lads, two-goal Phil Foden, speaks to Sky: “I enjoyed that a lot. Obviously to score my first goal for England means a lot to me. I couldn’t stop smiling after it. it’s an unbelievable feeling, and I’m just going to try and enjoy it as much as I can tonight! When you score your confidence is high, and I took my goal well from outside the box, which is something I have to improve on. I’m just proud to be a part of this. [The recent behavioural brouhaha in Iceland] was one of the hardest moments of my life, and that’s when you need the trust of your manager. Gareth had a lot of respect for me and I’m just happy to repay him with goals and play well.”
In the other Group A2 match, Belgium beat Denmark 4-2. That means they finish top of the group with 15 points. They go through to next year’s Nations League finals with Italy, France and Spain. That’ll be some event. Denmark pip England to second spot in A2; both have 10 points, but the Danes beat the English on the head-to-head. Iceland are relegated to League B.
FULL TIME: England 4-0 Iceland
And that’s that! England put ten-man Iceland to the sword with goals from youngsters Declan Rice, Mason Mount and Phil Foden. It’s a toss-up between Foden and Jack Grealish for man of the match. Both were magnificent, so take your pick.
90 min +2: The second features an England corner that leads to nothing.
90 min +1: The first of three added minutes passes without drama.
90 min: Foden makes space out on the right with an outrageous reimagining of the Cruyff Turn. The move peters out, but that’s not the point. What skill! Anything Big Bird can do, he can do even better.
89 min: Big Bird cuts in from the right and shoots low. Saved. Mings heads over. Saka heads wide. England really want a fifth.
88 min: Johannesson, making his debut for Iceland at 17, replaces Bjornsson.
86 min: Let the record state that, moments before Foden’s second, Harry ‘Garrincha’ Maguire - who had been probing down the left during the first half - was this time patrolling the touchline on the right. The Big Bird?
85 min: Maitland-Niles comes on for Trippier.
GOAL! England 4-0 Iceland (Foden 84)
Winks picks up a loose ball in the midfield. He lays off down the inside right to Foden, who takes a touch inside before whipping a low drive into the bottom right. Halldorsson had no chance.
82 min: That’s hard luck on Iceland, who had been restricting England fairly comfortably in the second half. But the scoreline doesn’t flatter the hosts in any way.
GOAL! England 3-0 Iceland (Foden 80)
Apologies to all our Icelandic readers for saying that, then. Sancho skitters in from the left. He draws Arnason, creating a gap in the middle filled by Foden. Sancho rolls the ball to his team-mate, who sweeps into the bottom right. Simple but effective.
79 min: A wry smile from Erik Hamren on the touchline. He’s very close to the end of his reign as Iceland boss; his players are doing him proud in this second half.
77 min: Mings steers a weak header wide right amid a penalty-box stramash. Halldorsson had it covered all the way.
76 min: That’s the end of Kane, who is replaced by Abraham. Grealish makes way for Sancho.
75 min: Kane’s shot clatters into the wall. In fact it hits Ingason on the forearm, and England want a penalty, but they’re not getting it, the Icelander’s arm right by the side of his body.
74 min: Now Grealish is bowled over by Eyjolfsson. A free kick to England, just to the right of the D. England want to sub Kane, but the captain wants one last go at scoring.
73 min: Before the free kick - which comes to nothing - Iceland make a double switch. Off go Bodvarsson and Gudmundsson; on come Sigthorsson and Thorsteinsson.
72 min: Arnason is booked for toe-poking Grealish in the shin.
70 min: England looked like scoring with every attack in the first half. They’ve not been half as exciting in this second period. Iceland will be very pleased with their gritty display since the restart ... so far.
68 min: Dier gets hand-on with Bodvarsson out on the right, and it’s a free kick to Iceland. Another chance to load the England box. But Bodvarsson’s delivery is poor, and an easy gather for Pickford.
67 min: England have had 16 attempts to Iceland’s sole effort, which was that off-target Arnason header.
65 min: Maguire piles forward, living out some Beckenbauer fantasies as he one-twos in front of the Iceland box. He can’t work space to shoot, and suddenly there’s a gap at the back when Iceland clear their lines. But there’s only Bodvarsson up front, and though he tries to graft his way down the middle, he’s always going to be crowded out.
64 min: Two changes for England: Mings and Winks come on for Walker and Mount.
63 min: Before the corner can be taken, Eyjolfsson comes on for Sigurjonsson. Some extra defensive cover for Iceland.
62 min: Maguire threads a pass down the left for Grealish, who slides immediately across for Kane. The England captain is waiting to sidefoot home when Arnason intercepts and steers out for a corner.
61 min: Foden crosses from the right. Kane swivels and shoots from 12 yards, but Arnason is right behind him to block. That’s fine play all round.
60 min: Skulason whips the corner to the near post. Arnason ghosts in to flash a header wide right. England were fast asleep there.
59 min: Gudmundsson bursts away from a couple of challenges and scoops a dainty pass down the right for Bodvarsson, who powers off along the touchline and earns a corner. Iceland load the box. Before it can be taken, Arnason and Dier are told to stop shoving each other in the playground style.
57 min: This was hard enough for Iceland when they had 11 men. It’s going to be real backs-to-the-wall stuff now.
55 min: Nothing comes of the resulting free kick, to the left of the D, other than some over-elaborate English faff.
RED CARD! Saevarsson (Iceland)
54 min: A light tug on Saka’s arm, and that’s a second yellow for a man on his 99th cap. He’s far from happy. There wasn’t much in that, but this referee isn’t messing around this evening, and in that respect the result was inevitable.
53 min: Gudmundsson turns on the jets and threatens to burst into the England box on the left. Dier does extremely well to stick by him as he looks to work space for a shot. None arrives, and Trippier turns up to clear.
52 min: England have quelled Iceland’s early second-half energy. They indulge in some of the sterile midfield passing.
50 min: Arnason gives the ball away cheaply in midfield. That allows Grealish to attack down the left with great purpose. He glides into the box and tries a curler towards the top right. His effort is blocked. For a second, that had goal written all over it.
49 min: Grealish again finds himself in the never-ending foul. This time Ingason charges him in the back, picking up a yellow card for his trouble.
47 min: Erik Hamren’s last half-time team-talk as Iceland coach may have been a passionate one. His team have come out for the second half with renewed vigour. Some space for Gudmundsson down the right. He whips in low. Dier is forced to hack clear of the six-yard box with blue shirts lurking.
Iceland get the ball rolling for the second half. As planned, they’re giving 36-year-old Hannes Þór Halldórsson one last run-out in goal. He replaces Kristinsson for a valedictory 45 minutes. How happy England will be to see him is moot, given his heroics against them at Euro 2016.
Half-time entertainment ... from the archives.
HALF TIME: England 2-0 Iceland
There’s just enough time for Kane to flash a header wide left when it was easier to score, and that’s the end of the first half. Both teams will be happy: England, because they have been wonderful in attack; Iceland, because they’re somehow only two goals down.
45 min: There will be one extra minute at the end of an excellent half for England.
44 min: Sigurjonsson rakes his foot down Maguire’s shin. That looked nasty, if possibly accidental. Either way, it’s surprising the referee takes no action at all. Maguire isn’t particularly happy about it, and who could blame him.
42 min: Grealish, seemingly forever on the end of one long cosmic foul, is grounded by Bodvarsson 30 yards out. Trippier wedges a surprising pass down the left for Saka, who attempts a Van Bastenesque volley from a tight angle but is blocked bravely by Gudmundsson.
40 min: England drop the tempo, stroking some sterile stuff around the middle of the park.
38 min: Kane wants in on the act. He barrels down the middle before curling powerfully towards the top right. Just off target, though Kristinsson may have had that one covered.
36 min: Foden grealishes right to left, then sends Saka into space down the wing. Saka rolls inside for Kane, who drops a shoulder to move infield, then whips a low reverse shot millimetres wide of the bottom left. Kristinsson was rooted to the spot. So close to number three, which is surely coming soon.
35 min: Foden comes again, this time down the middle, sent scampering into space by Kane. Foden fizzes a forensic shot towards the bottom right, and it would be in were it not for Kristinsson’s fingertips. Nothing comes of this latest corner. It’s all England.
34 min: England revert to a more traditional shape, and it’s Saka who makes good on the left to win a corner. Some head tennis follows, Foden trying to guide home from a tight angle on the right, Kristinsson blocking well.
33 min: An illustration of how much England are currently on top: Maguire is currently playing as a touchline-hugging left winger.
31 min: Nothing comes of the resulting corner. After a slow start, England have been very entertaining in attack.
30 min: England should be three up. Maguire, of all people, sashays across the face of the Iceland box, left to right, and picks out Foden with a perfectly weighted pass. Foden hits his shot straight at Kristinsson when one on one with the keeper. A great save, but one he should never have been allowed to make.
29 min: A slinky Gudmundsson backflick opens England up down the left. But Bodvarsson went a split second too early, and the flag goes up for offside.
27 min: Kane conjures up some space out of very little, lashing a riser towards the top right from 20 yards. If it’s on target, it’s in, with Kristinsson surprised by the sheer power of the strike, but it’s inches wide and high. That would have been a picture.
26 min: Iceland had been holding their shape pretty well, too, but a couple of Grealish bursts down the left unnerved them, and now look. This has been a pretty good international break for the Aston Villa midfielder, huh.
GOAL! England 2-0 Iceland (Mount 24)
Grealish gazzas his way down the inside left, not so much avoiding challenges as ignoring them. The blistering run puts Iceland on the back foot. Saka crosses for Kane who can’t get the ball under control. But Mount can. He drops a shoulder to send Bjarnason off to the wrong fire, then guides a cute shot into the bottom right.
22 min: England nearly make it two in a matter of minutes. Mount slips a ball down the left for the livewire Grealish, who rolls infield to tee up Saka. The Arsenal youngster sends a first-time snapshot towards the top left, but Kristinsson sticks out a strong arm and claws it away. Lovely football all round.
GOAL! England 1-0 Iceland (Rice 20)
Grealish does what he does better than anyone else: drawing a foul from a clumsy galoot. He’s clipped by Palsson as he dribbles infield from the left. Foden curls the free kick in. Rice eyebrows it across Kristinsson and into the bottom right. A lovely flicked header, and that’s his first goal in an England shirt!
18 min: Maguire switches play with a gorgeous crossfield pass towards Foden and Trippier on the right. Trippier battles hard and nearly gets the better of Skulason, but Iceland close the door just in time. Shame nothing more came of that expansive pass.
16 min: Maguire sends Bodvarsson clattering into the hoardings. He seeks out the striker to make a genuine apology when he returns to the field of play. There’s nice.
14 min: Foden bursts down the right and is gently tugged back by Sigurjonsson. Foden wriggles free and plays on, but the momentum is lost. A slight surprise that Sigurjonsson doesn’t go in the book when play stops, but there we have it.
12 min: Now Walker goes in the book for an overly aggressive slide on Sigurjonsson. There’s absolutely nothing riding on this match!
11 min: Saevarsson is booked for a late clip on Saka. Mistimed more than malicious.
10 min: A period of nondescript England possession.
8 min: From the corner, Bjarnason flashes a header wide left. It wouldn’t have counted, because the referee considers Pickford to have been unfairly ushered away from the action by a ring of blue shirts.
7 min: England play a high line and are sprung by a simple long pass down the right. Bodvarsson gets on the end of it and wins a corner off a hastily backtracking Dier.
6 min: Grealish and Mount combine again down the left, the former then sliding Saka into space. Saka whips across the face of goal. Kane somehow manages to fresh-air swipe at a simple tap-in, but his blushes are spared when the flag goes up for offside.
5 min: Saevarsson hoicks a high cross into the England mixer from the right. Pickford does well to hare off his line and punch clear under pressure from Bodvarsson.
4 min: Mount earns the first corner of the evening. The ball’s eventually worked out to Grealish on the left. He dances into the area in the confident style, pinging a pass infield for Mount, who spins and shoots, but tamely, an easy pick-up for Kristinsson.
2 min: England hog the ball, making sure most of their team get an early feel. “I was perusing the MBM while on the phone to my dad, so watched the video of fate-tempting’s Steve McClaren without sound,” reports Jon Collin. “It’s absolutely marvellous. Mr McClaren has the tragicomic expressiveness of the finest silent movie stars. Quick, somebody chuck him some forks and bread rolls to mime the goal!” McClaren as hapless silent-movie star sounds about right. Here’s a picture of him leaving the house earlier this morning ...
England get the ball rolling ... but only after taking the knee. Black lives matter. There’s no room for racism.
Here come the teams! England wear their famous white; Iceland play in their first-choice blue. The Nations League theme is followed by a blast of Lofsöngur, which is a bugger to sing on account of spanning a minor 14th. Even the notoriously hard Star Spangled Banner spans just a 12th. God Save the Queen follows. We’ll be off in a minute, following a moment of applause in memory of Ray Clemence.
The players will wear black armbands tonight in honour of Ray Clemence, who passed away on Sunday. Jordan Pickford has laid a shirt with Clemence’s name on the back behind the goal, where it will stay for the entirety of the game. The former Liverpool, Spurs and Scunthorpe goalie played 61 times for England during the 1970s and early 1980s.
Gareth Southgate talks to Sky Sports. “We don’t have many opportunities to play and can never be sure when we’ll get all the players. So we felt it was important to build on the games we’ve had this autumn, with an opportunity to look at some young players again, which is exciting. There’s a message there: every game is important. And I was very impressed with the approach of the players for the last few days. It would be very easy for them to pull out, there’s a lot of pressure on them to pull out, they haven’t and that says a lot about them as a group. We’re looking at the whole, but this is another chance to see Mason a little bit deeper, another chance to see Phil in his first start between September, and the interplay between him and Harry and Jack in particular. They’ll have some freedom to move off of the shape. It’s a nice balance.”
So much for wholesale experimentation. England are unable to progress from Group A2, Iceland are already relegated, and there are no more fixtures until some World Cup qualifiers in March. However Gareth Southgate names eight of the team that started in Belgium. The injured Ben Chilwell and Jordan Henderson are replaced by Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden, while Harry Maguire returns from suspension and replaces Tyrone Mings at the back. Wayne Rooney’s record as youngest-ever player to start a game for England remains intact, with 17-year-old Jude Bellingham on the bench.
England: Pickford, Trippier, Walker, Maguire, Dier, Saka, Rice, Mount, Grealish, Kane, Foden.
Subs: Keane, Sancho, Mings, Pope, Winks, Chilwell, Maitland-Niles, Calvert-Lewin, Abraham, D Henderson, Bellingham.
Iceland: Kristinsson, Hermannsson, Arnason, Ingason, Skulason, Bjarnason, Palsson, Saevarsson, Gudmundsson, Sigurjonsson, Bodvarsson.
Subs: Halldorsson, Runarsson, Eyjolfsson, Sampsted, Johannesson, Þorsteinsson, Baldursson, Gudjohnsen, Sigurdsson.
Welcome to the dictionary definition of football dystopia: a match with absolutely nothing riding on it, being played in front of an empty stadium, and televised to an audience who are now jonesing real hard for the Premier League and Championship. But hey, any excuse to trot out this old classic, huh.
They’ll always have
Paris Nice, though the high point of Iceland’s golden era seems a long time ago now. They’ve lost six of their last seven matches, and manager Erik Hamren is stepping down after this game. A time to rebuild. England coach Gareth Southgate will almost certainly take the chance to run the rule over his squad, so expect to see more of current craze Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Ashley Maitland-Niles and perhaps a full outing for 17-year-old Jude Bellingham, who would break Wayne Rooney’s record as youngest starter if selected in the first XI. An evening of stress-free entertainment and experimentation awaits. It’s on!
Kick off: 7.45pm.