fbpx Skip to main content

Gareth Southgate says England’s shock loss to Iceland will knock any complacency out of a team he is certain will react strongly in their Euro 2024 opener against Serbia.

Four days after beating Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 at St James’ Park, a sell-out Wembley crowd witnessed an alarming 1-0 defeat by a side who will watch this summer’s tournament from afar.

Iceland frustrated England and threatened to add to Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson’s early goal, with the hosts booed at the final whistle having managed just one shot on target in response.

Southgate knows Friday’s send-off friendly was a “far-from-ideal night” but believes it can benefit a group who are among the favourites to be crowned kings of the continent.

“It does focus the mind, it does focus on how we have to drive the team, the sort of reaction we need,” the England boss said of the shock loss to the side 72nd in FIFA’s world rankings.

“That any sort of complacency that talent is going to get us this trophy and that we only have to sort of stroll in… I mean, football is not like that.

“You’ve got to be spot on in every aspect of the game to win any game at this level and we were a long way short of that tonight.

“Iceland deserved their win. They had a couple of other chances on the break that we didn’t deal with, so I think it really focuses our minds to drive the team over the next week.”

It was a chastening evening that led to boos at Wembley, where bored fans had aimed paper planes at the pitch from the 20th minute onwards.

The outcome extinguished what was supposed to be a feelgood send-off, with a planned post-match photo with supporters scrapped as the stands had long since emptied.

England will now use everything around the Iceland loss as fuel for what Southgate believes will be a vastly different Group C opener against Serbia a week on Sunday.

England’s Cole Palmer shoots at goal under pressure from Iceland goalkeeper Hakon Valdimarsson
England were lacklustre in their friendly defeat by Iceland (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“We’ve obviously lost some experienced players, like a (Jordan) Henderson and a (Harry) Maguire because of physical issues,” the manager said of his 26-man Euros squad.

“We’ve put in the players that we think are the best available at this moment in time in those sorts of positions and the core of the team still has a lot of tournament experience and a lot of caps.

“We haven’t in the last couple of games had the core of the team on the pitch at the same time.

“A lot of the players we’re taking off at the point of the game where you need to be accelerating the game and pushing to pull the game out of the bag having gone behind.

“Tonight, for me, of course will be a disappointment. I understand the reaction that everybody will have, but I have to stay calm because I know the reasons for it.

“I can see what we need to do in the next week or so, and without a doubt we’ll be far better next Sunday than we were in the game tonight.”

England’s players and staff are enjoying a final day off on Saturday before reconvening and flying out to Germany on Monday.

Southgate’s side will stay and train at the remote Spa and Golf Resort Weimarer Land, where they will continue to iron out the physical kinks that have been a headache throughout the build-up.

Anthony Gordon and Bukayo Saka returned from the fitness concerns on Friday evening, when Kieran Trippier and Marc Guehi got more minutes under their belts after returning from recent lay-offs.

“We’re focusing on all aspects, really, but we can’t hide the fact that we have got a lot of physical issues,” Southgate said. “That’s plain for everybody to see.

“Nevertheless, we can be better than we were tonight, and we’ve got to be more compact, press better and then take the chances that we created.

“But I think we can resolve that. It’s a good opportunity for us to get on the training pitch, remind ourselves of what’s important in terms of winning football matches.

“If the intensity of your game isn’t right without the ball, then it can cause you a lot of problems with the ball as well.”