England: Miserable Euro 2024 send-off leaves Gareth Southgate with questions

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Iceland stunned England and ruined their Euro 2024 send-off with a 1-0 win over Gareth Southgate's side at Wembley, which will dampen expectations around England's chances in Germany.

Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson's 12th-minute goal was enough to earn Iceland a memorable victory, and the visitors had several fine chances to extend their lead after the interval.

England, who were nearly at full strength but still missing Jude Bellingham, also squandered a host of opportunities in a clunky display, leaving Southgate with work to do ahead of their Euros opener against Serbia on June 16.

Miserable send-off leaves Southgate with questions

This was supposed to be a glorious send-off for England at the national stadium, a chance for Southgate's new-look squad to build confidence ahead of the tournament and put on a show for an excited home crowd.

Instead, England slumped to an uninspiring and not unwholly undeserved defeat, thanks to Thorsteinsson's which fizzed past back-up goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale at his near post.

Trent Alexander-Arnold impressed in midfielder when coming on (The FA via Getty Images)
Trent Alexander-Arnold impressed in midfielder when coming on (The FA via Getty Images)

An Icelandic smash-and-grab might have been understandable but, although England dominated the ball, the visitors probably had the best chances of the second-half, Thorsteinsson slipping with the goal gaping, Sverrir Ingason heading a corner straight at Aaron Ramsdale and Kolbeinn Finnsson testing the Arsenal keeper with a spectacular long-range effort.

In the end, Iceland could be frustrated they did not score more than once, although their goal did live a charmed life at times.

The defeat leaves Southgate with several huge questions ahead of England's opening group game and a sense that England, for all the obvious quality in their squad, remain very much a work in progress.

The midfield issue remains open

The identity of England's third midfielder - assuming Declan Rice starts at No.6 and Bellingham as the No.10 -- remains perhaps Southgate's biggest conundrum but an alarmingly open performance offered no definitive answers.

Kobbie Mainoo, the Manchester United teenager, lined-up next to Rice at the base of midfield and was eye-catching in possession, his neat passing and willingness to carry the ball into tight areas helping England to maintain a solid tempo.

Kobbie Mainoo did not do enough to secure his starting spot (Mike Egerton/PA Wire)
Kobbie Mainoo did not do enough to secure his starting spot (Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

But it is unclear if Mainoo has the defensive nous to offer the required protection to the back four and Iceland exposed England's fragile structure for their goal, easily playing through the lines.

And it must have concerned Southgate how easily Iceland passed through his side in the second half too, notably when two players beat the offside trap just after the hour, only for Thorsteinsson to slip at the crucial moment.

Mainoo did not rule himself out but nor did he make a really compelling case here, Rice's partner in Germany still something of an open question.

Palmer sparkles

Cole Palmer should have scored at least one of two fine chances in as many second-half minutes, but the Chelsea playmaker was still probably a winner from this glum send-off.

Palmer was one of just three players to keep their places from Monday's win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, lining up on the right of the front four again.

He was England's brightest player, his silky touch and movement bringing Southgate's side to life in the final third.

Cole Palmer should have scored (REUTERS)
Cole Palmer should have scored (REUTERS)

Palmer was unlucky not to equalise with minutes of Iceland's goal when his goal-bound strike was deflected just wide, before his lovely weighted pass put one of a plate for captain Harry Kane, who uncharacteristically shinned over the bar from close-range.

Palmer's two misses - the first effort sent into the side-netting, the second chance slipping away when he tried to round the goalkeeper but ran out of road -- were frustrating, but the 22-year-old has done his chances of featuring prominently in Germany no harm this week.

Stones injury a concern

Perhaps England's flat performance can be explained, in part, by the players' desire not to get injured at the last, although Southgate still came away from the game with a concern after John Stones was hooked at half-time.

Stones turned his ankle awkwardly inside a minute after a collision with an Iceland player but completed the half after returning to his feet gingerly.

Every England fan should hope his substitution for Ezri Konsa was merely a precaution. With Harry Maguire axed, Stones is England's only centre-half with major tournament experience and a player Southgate simply cannot afford to lose.