Saturday, June 22, 2024

England lose to Iceland in final Euro 2024 warm-up and get new injury scare

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Harry Kane endured an off night at Wembley as England were beaten by Iceland (PA)

England suffered a 1-0 defeat to Iceland in their final game before the start of their Euro 2024 campaign while John Stones has added to Gareth Southgate’s injury concerns.

Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson silenced Wembley with his winning goal in the 12th minute as he fired low past Aaron Ramsdale. However, the bigger worry for England will be the fact that Iceland were able to easily cut through their entire team with just six passes from the goalkeeper before Thorsteinsson finished off the move.

‘We learned a lot, we know the performance wasn’t good enough,’ Southgate admitted after England’s defeat.

‘No excuses on the result, we have to be better than that but I think there are a lot of things we can put right pretty quickly. We didn’t get our pressing right. We were too stretched without the ball. There were questions asked that we weren’t able to answer.’

Southgate’s biggest wish would have been for all of his players to emerge unscathed from their final warm-up fixture before the start of England’s Euro 2024 campaign against Serbia on June 16, but he will now be waiting to find out the extent of Stones’ injury after the Manchester City centre-back was forced off at half time.

Thorsteinsson landed awkwardly on Stones’ ankle during a challenge in the second minute but the City defender stayed on the pitch before being replaced by Ezri Konsa at the break.

Asked for an update on Stones’ injury after England’s defeat, Southgate said: ‘We think he’s probably okay but we didn’t want to take a chance with what’s coming up.’

John Stones of England in action against Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson of Iceland during the friendly international soccer match between England and Iceland
John Stones was forced off after a challenge on his ankle (EPA)
Iceland's Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson celebrates scoring their first goal against England
Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson scored Iceland’s winner to beat England at Wembley (Reuters)

England spurned plenty of chances to equalise, the best of which fell to Harry Kane from Cole Palmer’s excellent cross in the 29th minute, but the Three Lions captain connected with his shin and the ball flew over the bar from six yards out.

Newcastle United’s Antony Gordon enjoyed a lively first half on England’s left wing but Southgate’s side struggled to break down a well-organised and compact Iceland back line.

‘I think England have to keep the width,’ former England captain Wayne Rooney said during his half-time analysis.

‘Anthony Gordon has done really well in doing that on one side but Cole Palmer is coming in a lot and it is very congested in that No 10 area. 

‘I think someone, whether it’s Palmer or Kyle Walker, has to keep the width on the right to try and spread their backline to create more space in the middle of the pitch.’

England Manager Gareth Southgate with Kieran Trippier after the international friendly match between England and Iceland at Wembley Stadium
Gareth Southgate admits England ‘didn’t get their pressing right’ against Iceland (Getty)
Anthony Gordon of England is embraced by Gareth Southgate, Head Coach of England, after he is substituted during the international friendly match between England and Iceland at Wembley Stadium
Anthony Gordon impressed on England’s left flank (Getty)

England continued to press for the equaliser after the break but Iceland missed an excellent opportunity to double their lead as Thorsteinsson was picked out by Hakon Arnar Haraldsson’s cross but slipped at the vital moment.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, on as a substitute in the 65th minute, enjoyed another impressive performance and created three chances – the most of any other England player against Iceland. He has only strengthened his case for a starting spot against Serbia.

Meanwhile, Former England defender Matthew Upson was more scathing in his analysis after the full-time whistle.

‘What a tough watch that was,’ he told BBC Radio Five Live.

‘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.

‘We had no width, there was no punch of directness or aggression or physicality in the play. It was really quite dismal. It was a bit boring to watch.’

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