England will be hoping for a positive start to their UEFA Nations League campaign when they lock horns with Iceland on Saturday.
International football returned to our screens after nearly a ten-month break, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, as The UEFA Nations League 2020/21 was welcomed with a revamped format. Matchday 1 already witnessed one of the most hotly-anticipated encounters play out at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, as Spain clinched a draw against Germany thanks to a last-second winner courtesy to Luis Gaya.
England take on the pitch for the first time in the tournament tomorrow, as they visit the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik to play the hosts in the Laudgardalsvöllur. The Three Lions will be hoping for a better tournament this time after being humbled 3-1 by the Netherlands in the Semi-finals of the inaugural National League, courtesy of two goals in extra time.
Iceland, on the other hand, finished bottom of their group with four losses in four games, scoring just one goal in the process while conceding 13. This included the 6-0 battering at the hands of Switzerland – a game which boasted of six different goalscorers. They have been drawn in an even tougher group this time out with the likes of Belgium, Denmark, and England.
The last and only meeting of these two sides on a football pitch came in the 2016 European Championship Quarter Finals. The Nordic outfit won said encounter 2-1, with all three goals coming in the first 18 minutes of the game. Wayne Rooney’s 4th-minute penalty was cut out by Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sightorsson.
Team News & Tactics
Erik Hamren announced the 25-man squad for Iceland on Monday, but it does not include Premier League starts Gylfi Sigurdsson and Johann Berg Gudmundsson, both of whom decided to join training with their clubs, Everton and Burnley respectively with the new Premier League on the horizon.
Hópur A landsliðs karla fyrir leikina gegn Englandi og Belgíu í Þjóðadeild UEFA.
— Knattspyrnusambandið (@footballiceland) August 28, 2020
Hannes Halldórsson will start in goal for Iceland, playing in 70th game for his national team despite being a part-time filmmaker. He was most recently on display during their friendly against El Salvador in January where he kept a clean sheet.
Ahead of him, Hjörtur Hermannsson and Ari Freyr Skúlason will provide the width from the back as the right and left fullbacks respectively. Kári Árnason and Sverrir Ingi Ingason will play in the heart of the defence as the centre-halves.
In midfield, Iceland will be missing the likes of Siggurson, who has refused to play, captain Aron Gunnarsson, who has not been granted release by the club, and the injured Runar Mar Sigurdsson. Hamren was quick to admit that he was not happy about the players opting out of the International break and that it was not “a desired situation.”
The 63-year-old will play his usual four-man midfield with Arnor Sigurdsson and Mikael Anderson as wide midfielders. Birkir Bjarnason and Arnor Traustason in the double pivot as holding midfielders. All four players are expected to sit back and join the defence as the second line of pressure, with only Arnor and Mikael moving ahead during counter-attacks.
Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Jón Dadi Bödvarsson will lead the line on the pitch in the absence of usual first-choice striker Alfred Finnbogason, who as refused a call-up to continue training with Augsburg with the Bundesliga season due to start on the 19th.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Halldórsson; Hermannsson, Árnason, Ingason, Skúlason; Sigurdsson, Bjarnason, Traustason, Anderson; Sigthorsson, Bödvarsson
Here is your first #ThreeLions squad of the year! 🙌
Gareth Southgate has named a 24-man squad for next month’s #NationsLeague games against Iceland and Denmark.
— England (@England) August 25, 2020
Gareth Southgate announced his 25-man squad for the games against Iceland and Denmark on 25th August, but has since faced complications since. Harry Maguire was dropped from the team by the gaffer following his controversial arrest in Greece, while Marcus Rashford dropped out due to injury.
There are several players who have received their maiden call-up including Mason Mount, Dean Henderson, Kalvin Phillips, Phil Foden, Mason Greenwood, and now Jack Grealish, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and Conor Coady called up to replace the aforementioned drop-outs.
Dean Henderson might get his debut tomorrow, starting in goal following his excellent campaign with Sheffield United, keeping 13 clean sheets. Ahead of him, Kyle Walker will likely start as the right-back with Maitland-Niles on the left in a makeshift role in the absence of any clear cut left-back. Joe Gomez and Michael Keane are expected to start as the centre-halves, with Coady expected to see the game out from the bench.
Declan Rice will start the game as the defensive midfielder, alongside Eric Dier in the centre of the park screening the back-four. Ahead of them, Mason Mount will start the game in the no. 10 role in what is expected to be a 4-2-3-1.
With Marcus Rashford dropping out, it paves a clear way for Jadon Sancho to start tomorrow, but he will slot in on the right with Raheem Sterling on the left. Captain Harry Kane will lead the line for England and will hope to do much better this time out in the Nations League.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Henderson; Walker, Gomez, Keane, Maitland-Niles; Dier, Rice; Sancho, Mount, Sterling; Kane
- England and Iceland have met just once previously in official games, with the latter edging out the former thanks to a 2-1 win.
- The Three Lions have won eight out of their last ten matches, including friendlies, with defeats coming against the Netherlands and Czech Republic.
- Iceland boast of a similar record, too, winning seven of their last ten games, losing two and drawing one.
- England have not conceded a single goal in their last three games while scoring 17 goals in the process.
- There have been more than two goals in each of England’s last seven games.
Player to Watch
Wonderkid Jadon Sancho has failed to replicate his tremendous club form for England, scoring just twice in 11 caps, both of which came in the same game – a 5-3 win over Kosovo. He has also given two assists in the same time, one each against Montenegro and Czech Republic.
However, the 20-year-old has gone from strength to strength this season, becoming the only other player apart from Lionel Messi to score 20 goals and register 20 assists. With Marcus Rashford out from the squad, there is no better time for Sancho to come in and prove to Gareth Southgate that he is the winger he should look towards for next year’s Euros.
Iceland 0-2 England
The UEFA Nations League has not started off in an exciting manner despite some really exhilarating games. In the 10 games clocked in so far, there have been no more than 20 goals. There have been five draws so far, two of which have ended goalless.
We expect tomorrow to be no different, especially with most English players coming off of a tiresome Premier League schedule. That said, we do expect them to register a comfortable win and keep a clean sheet with Iceland missing several key players, including their first-choice striker, and their only creative outlet.