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England Booed Off the Pitch After Another Disappointing Performance Against Iceland in Euros Warm-Up

It was far from the triumphant Euro 2024 send-off that Gareth Southgate and his England players had hoped for at a sold-out and increasingly anxious Wembley. While the result itself wasn’t paramount, it inevitably stirred memories of past disappointments against Iceland.

The performance, however, raised significant concerns. It was one of the team’s worst showings in recent times, coming at the worst possible moment. Thousands of home fans left early, and those who remained watched the second half with growing dread. The problems had been apparent even before halftime.

Iceland struck early through Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson, exploiting England’s generous defending—a recurring theme throughout the match. Marc Guéhi struggled in the center, and John Stones, who took a heavy challenge early on and made way at halftime, was off the pace. Stones departed with his right foot heavily strapped. The defensive issues were not confined to them alone; Kobbie Mainoo and Phil Foden found it difficult to control the midfield.

Boos echoed around the stadium at halftime and intensified at the final whistle. England never looked like they believed in an equalizer as the clock wound down, and in truth, they could have conceded again.

Creatively, Southgate’s team fell short—too many flicks, not enough power and conviction, and an end product that was consistently frustrating. The post-match lap of appreciation felt flat, mirroring the performance.

England’s start couldn’t have been worse. Southgate took several uneasy breaths when Stones went down in the first minute, his foot tangled beneath Thorsteinsson after a tussle. Although Stones continued, he was involved in the defensive mishap that led to Thorsteinsson’s goal in the 12th minute. Hakon Arnar Haraldsson found ample space in midfield and passed left to Thorsteinsson. With Walker out of position and Stones slow to close down, Thorsteinsson’s shot beat Aaron Ramsdale at the near post. Ramsdale, given a chance ahead of Jordan Pickford, looked disappointed with himself.

Midway through the first half, Southgate urged calm after Foden misplaced a pass and overhit a cross, much to the crowd’s frustration. Foden, positioned as a No. 10, struggled, losing possession frequently. Gordon’s dribbling and ability to beat his man were rare positives.

England’s intricate passing played into Iceland’s hands, who massed bodies behind the ball. Despite this, England created first-half chances, including two significant ones. Kane’s 28th-minute volley, from a Palmer cross, was blazed off target. Palmer had also missed a good opportunity after a poor clearance from Iceland’s goalkeeper. Gordon misfired on a curling shot after a flowing move. The half ended with Guéhi making a crucial block.

The match became a psychological test for Southgate’s team, a theme likely to persist in the coming weeks. Four starters and four substitutes had no major international tournament experience. The inexperience, especially in the back four that finished the game, was evident.

After the restart, England showed glimpses of an equalizer. Foden’s shot went wide after a Gordon pull-back, and Palmer failed to round Valdimarsson following a Rice pass. With England pressing high, Iceland almost scored on the break. Haraldsson’s cross to Thorsteinsson, who slipped at the vital moment, and Sverrir Ingason’s header, saved by Ramsdale, were clear chances.

Two substitutes, Ivan Toney and Trent Alexander-Arnold, came close to scoring, with Alexander-Arnold impressing with his passing from right-back. Kolbeinn Finnsson nearly caught Ramsdale out from distance. For England, the match could have ended even worse.

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