Saturday, June 22, 2024

‘Boring’ & ‘dismal’ – but are England still ‘ready’ for Euro 2024? – BBC Sport

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Image caption, Gareth Southgate is leading England into a fourth tournament during his reign

Boos rang out at Wembley as England’s grand send-off for the European Championship they hope to finally win ended with defeat by the same team who stunned them in 2016 – and the BBC pundits were also unimpressed.

Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson scored the only goal as Iceland came out 1-0 victors against an England team who played most of their likely starters for Germany.

“We had no width, there was no punch of directness or aggression or physicality in the play,” said former England defender Matt Upson, watching the game for BBC Radio 5 Live. “It was really quite dismal. It was a bit boring to watch.

“What a tough watch that was. It’s not pleasant going into a major tournament.

“Even if they didn’t play that well or had an off-night that’s fine, but what’s been delivered there was really flat and disjointed. It didn’t have the character at all. So flat from England.”

Former striker Dion Dublin, who played four times for the Three Lions in 1998, was similarly concerned by the lacklustre display.

“Nobody really had a good game tonight,” he added. “There’s not really one player in an England shirt who will say ‘I’ve done my bit, I’ve earned my shirt’.

“They just seemed off it tonight. I don’t know if they came into this with a little bit of expectation. I didn’t see any partnerships working.

“I don’t know what it was tonight. Iceland were better, they were more dynamic, they looked fitter. They got into such a good shape and made it hard for England. They deserved the win.”

Iceland, who knocked Roy Hodgson’s England out at the last-16 stage of the Euros eight years ago, have not qualified for this summer’s tournament.

‘We didn’t show enough character’

England boss Gareth Southgate admitted the “performance wasn’t good enough” but says “we learned a lot”.

“It was obviously a disjointed and disappointing performance and we didn’t show enough character, but I think it’s good for us before an international tournament,” Southgate told Channel 4.

“We’ve got to be better without the ball. I think there were a lot of reasons for that and across the two games we probably haven’t had our full side out. We’ve been able to look at people, we’ve been able to learn about the balance of the team.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of last matches leading into a tournament. Inevitably players have one eye on what’s coming in terms of early challenges. No excuses on the result but there are a lot of things we can put right quickly.”

England midfielder Declan Rice added: “When we have that much of the ball, we have a couple of clear-cut chances and get beat 1-0 at home just before a Euros, it’s not ideal.

“But there were a lot of positive performances. In the end it becomes a frustration game, you’re chasing your tail a little bit and get caught on the counter-attack.

“Inside I’m hurting and between now and the next game there’s work to be done.”

‘Tonight hasn’t gone as we hoped – but we’ll be ready’

Southgate is not too worried, though.

England face Serbia in their opening group game next Sunday before matches against Denmark and Slovenia.

“We’ll be ready,” said Southgate, set for his fourth major tournament as England boss. “Tonight hasn’t gone as we would have hoped.

“I said to the players that not every day will go as you want and tonight was one of those.

“But also, not everything will be wrong. We had enough chances really to win the game, but we conceded too many chances as well.”

Arsenal’s Rice also took some positives out of the Wembley defeat.

“It’s not ideal we lost but there’s a lot of learning curves you can build on as a team,” he added.

“Maybe against the teams that sit in it’s about being a bit mentally switched on. I felt at times we were a little stretched, not as compact as we usually are.”

Under Southgate, the Three Lions lost to Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 final, while they reached the semi-final and quarter-final in the past two World Cups.

Can England still win Euro 2024? ‘Absolutely’

Despite the performance and result against Iceland, former England striker Wayne Rooney remains convinced the Three Lions can still go all the way at Euro 2024.

When asked on Channel 4 whether they could win the tournament, he replied: “Absolutely.

“As I said before, it’s a very exciting squad, they’ve certainly got the players and the firepower. I hope the backline is strong, that’s my only concern.

“But I think we’ve got more than enough to go and take teams head on, and if we do that we’ve got a great chance.”

Ex-England midfielder Joe Cole, also working as a pundit for Channel 4, added: “I know there were a few boos after the game. This team is used to giving us performances and wins.

“But go away, have a few days with your family and the tournament starts when you get on that plane.

“There’s a few things to brush up on, but overall we’re ready and we’re going to be OK.”

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