With his first goals in England as Gareth Southgate’s side cruised to a victory over Iceland, Phil Foden marked his return to competitive action.
As Gareth Southgate’s side finished their Nations League campaign on a high with a 4-0 win over 10-man Iceland, Phil Foden opened his England account with a brace.
Defeat to Belgium on Sunday had ensured that the Group A2 meeting at Wembley on Wednesday was a dead rubber, but the youthful England team nevertheless turned in an impressive display.
Foden marked his return in style, setting up Declan Rice’s opener before adding additional polish to a routine win with a superbly taken brace, making his first competitive England appearance since breaking coronavirus protocol after a victory over Iceland in September.
With Birkir Mar Saevarsson’s red card for a second bookable offense, Mason Mount doubled England’s count, all but ending any comeback hopes for outgoing Iceland coach Erik Hamren.
For different reasons, the major headlines going into the game were Jack Grealish and Foden and the two playmakers combined for the 20th-minute opener in England.
Rice was the benefactor, going from Foden’s free-kick to his maiden England goal, which was won by Greal, who teed up Bukayo Saka moments later.
The Arsenal youngster was unable to beat Ogmundur Kristinsson, but Mount made no such error with the next chance for England, coolly prodding in after latching on the knockdown of Harry Kane.
The marauding run forward by Harry Maguire resulted in a fine pass for Foden, whose shot was charged down by Kristinsson, who then again denied the midfielder before Kane curled wide.
The dreams of Iceland seemed to have been extinguished nine minutes into the second half, with Saevarsson having a second yellow to pull Saka out.
Kari Arnason would have changed that, but from the corner of Ari Freyr Skulason, he went wide.
Yet when Foden swept home from Jadon Sancho’s cutback, England had the third goal their superiority deserved in the 80th minute.
However, the 20-year-old Foden wasn’t finished there and rounded off a fine individual performance in the bottom-right corner with a thumping ball.
What does that imply? Finally, Southgate’s machine clicks
In their final game of the calendar year in each of the last seven years (W5 D2), England has now remained unbeaten since a 1-0 loss to Germany in 2013. And while it has been a frustrating campaign for the Nations League, on Wednesday, the 3-4-3 formation of Southgate clicked in style.
The trick now would be if Southgate can find a winning formula at the back to provide the forum to do the damage for the likes of Grealish, Foden and other young guns from England.
The children are all right
For the first time since November 1959 against Northern Ireland, England had four players aged 21 or younger-Saka, Foden, Rice and Mount-in the starting XI for a competitive international, and the youngsters did not let Southgate down.
The best of the bunch was Foden, the youngest player to score twice in the same match for the national team at Wembley, and his strikes meant that for the first time since February 1883, England had three players aged 21 or younger score in the same match.
Hamren finishes his time in Iceland with a whimper
After this match, Hamren took the decision to step down and Iceland’s new coach will face some kind of reconstruction.
Having taken over after the 2018 World Cup, Hamren struggled to lead Iceland to a third consecutive major tournament and only two attempts were made by his squad on Wednesday, failing to test Jordan Pickford at all, and they had only 21.7% ownership.
And what is next?
Over the March international break, both of these sides will be in action next with World Cup 2022 qualification scheduled to begin.