Competition date 05 September 2020 Competition type UEFA Nations League Group A2
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  • goal scored by R. Sterling Goal type PEN
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  • R. Sterling Goal type Penalty Goal
Raheem Sterling against Iceland

Raheem's relief

England's matchwinner Raheem Sterling assesses the victory over Iceland, while you can also read our previews to the game...

Raheem Sterling celebrates in Iceland


Raheem Sterling admits he was just happy to get back to action with a win and a goal over Iceland in Reykjavik.

It was the Manchester City man who won the game for England, by despatching a late penalty to ensure a winning start to the new UEFA Nations League campaign.

And he revealed how tough it was, with international action coming back so soon after the players' return to training for the new 2020-21 campaign with their clubs.

"It was a strange first game back," said Sterling after the game.

"We always knew it would be difficult - I've only had three training sessions - but there's no better way to get your match fitness than playing games.

"It was tough, but we got through in the end.

England's Raheem Sterling on the attack

"It's our first game with the national team, without any fans, and we knew we had to challenge ourselves to find something deep within, especially if there were any setbacks like conceding a goal.

"We didn't expect the red card but it happened and we kept playing our football and trying to probe.

"We kept compact and got the penalty and as soon as I got the ball, I thought 'straight down the middle' as it was the 90th minute and I knew the keeper wouldn't stay in the middle.

"We just need to keep growing as a team." 

Match Previews 

England boss Gareth Southgate and captain Harry Kane have been speaking ahead of the opening UEFA Nations League game with Iceland.

The Three Lions are in Reykjavik for their first game in ten months, after the COVID-19 outbreak forced the postponement of fixtures since then.

And Southgate admits the return of his squad in the build-up to this game has gone smoother than he might’ve expected a few weeks ago.

"The preparation and planning for the camp - when we weren't sure on the injuries or how far teams would go in Europe and most difficult of all, the virus situation - has been complicated,” he said.

"But since we've been on camp and the training pitch, the players have adjusted and adapted very well.

"We have a lot of senior players who are used to the way we play and the way we train and are a great influence to those coming in.

"I've been really pleased with the [fitness] level that the players are at.

England manager Gareth Southgate

"They're all very conscientious about that, the days are gone when players came back for pre-season and they weren't in tip top condition.

"We've got guys who only finished playing a few weeks ago, had a short break and are up to match fitness so it's not as big a concern for me as I thought it might've been.”

The match is the first time England have faced Iceland since their shock defeat against them in the knockout stage of EURO 2016.

Three Lions skipper Kane was part of the team on that night in Nice and admits it remains one of the hardest results of his career.

"It was one of the toughest nights I've had in an England shirt, but it's a game I've learnt from,” said Kane.

"It was my first international tournament at the time and I was still inexperienced at that level and even club level really.

"But throughout the journey of my career, I've taken nights like that as an opportunity to learn and improve from.

"I think I've done that as a person and I think our team has definitely improved in the last four years.

"Those games are always in your mind and you think about what you could've done better, but we've moved on and we're in a great place as a squad and just excited to be back playing.” 

Previous Meetings 

England's record against Iceland is certainly a mixed bag, as we've only played them three times at senior level in the past and enjoyed a win, draw and a defeat.

Of course, our last meeting is one which will go down in Iceland's history as one of their greatest results to date, after a heroic performance at EURO 2016 saw them knock out the Three Lions in Nice, France.

That game was just over four years ago now, and plenty has changed for both nations in that time...England's team has a largely different look and feel to it both on and off the pitch while Iceland are now considered one of the regular challengers for qualification in the UEFA region as opposed to the plucky underdogs tag they took on in France.

It had all started so positively in 2016 too, when Wayne Rooney put England ahead from the spot, but a quickfire response from Iceland saw two goals in 12 minutes from Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson to seal a historic win.

England's Wayne Rooney during the defeat to Iceland at EURO 2016

Our other clash with Iceland came back in 2004 when they were the visitors to the City of Manchester Stadium as England prepared for that summer's UEFA EURO 2004 Finals in Portugal. 

Rooney and Darius Vassell grabbed two goals each with Frank Lampard and Wayne Bridge adding the others, and you can watch highlights of that game above.

The first game between the two teams came back in 1982 when the nations played a friendly at the same venue in Reykjavik where they will once again meet in 2020. 

It ended 1-1 on that occasion, with Paul Goddard scoring a second-half equaliser to cancel out Arnor Gudjohnsen's opening goal.

EURO 2020 Qualifying head-to-head

Late drama in Reykjavik

England open new UEFA Nations League campaign with a win after a late penalty from Raheem Sterling

England celebrate their win in Iceland

Raheem Sterling’s late penalty and Birkir Bjarnason’s even later miss from the spot gave England victory in a helter-skelter finale to their UEFA Nations League opener against Iceland.

Kyle Walker was sent off for the Three Lions on what was developing into a frustrating evening in Reykjavík, only for Sterling’s late strike, and then Bjarnason’s skied effort, to salvage three points.

The visitors enjoyed the bulk of possession but were unable to penetrate a resolute Iceland defence for much of the contest, until Sverrir Ingi Ingason conceded a penalty - and received his second yellow - in the 89th minute and Sterling confidently placed the ball down the middle.

But when Joe Gomez tangled with an Iceland player at the other end it looked as though England’s persistence would count for nothing, only for former Aston Villa man Bjarnason to fluff his lines and send the Three Lions home with victory.

Southgate’s men bossed the opening exchanges and were unfortunate not to go ahead on six minutes, as Harry Kane’s strike at the far post was chalked off for offside.

A chance for England against Iceland

There was no VAR in operation in Reykjavík and replays showed the captain was marginally onside, as Sterling’s pinpoint cross and England’s early possession were unable to get the reward they deserved.

Jadon Sancho was a continual menace down the right as the Three Lions grew into the contest, and Declan Rice missed a golden opportunity after Sterling and Phil Foden - who was making his Three Lions debut - also combined.

The sides went in with the scores level at the break and the second half developed into similar pattern as the first, as England enjoyed sustained possession but were unable to find a breakthrough.

Southgate’s side went close on 64 minutes after a dangerous free-kick from Kieran Trippier was almost diverted into his own net by an Icelandic head.

Danny Ings was added from the bench to bolster England’s firepower but just two minutes later came Walker’s dismissal, as the England right-back received his second yellow card for a sliding tackle on Arnór Ingvi Traustason.

Kyle Walker is shown a red card against Iceland

Walker’s dismissal did little to distort the pattern of the game and 20 minutes later came the penalty decision for England, as the ball fell to Sterling from a corner and Ingason was given his second yellow for handling the ball.

With the usual penalty taker Kane being substituted, Manchester City forward Sterling deputised in style, by coolly passing the ball down the middle to hand England just reward for their hard work.

However, the game had a further twist in store, as Gomez conceded a penalty straight down the other but Bjarnason was unable to emulate Sterling’s composure from the spot, blazing his effort over to ensure Southgate’s side opened their Group 2 account with a win.

England: 1 Jordan Pickford (Everton), 2 Kyle Walker (Manchester City), 3 Kieran Tripper (Atlético Madrid), 4 Declan Rice (West Ham United), 5 Joe Gomez (Liverpool), 6 Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), 7 Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), 8 James Ward-Prowse (Southampton), 9 Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), 10 Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), 11 Phil Foden (Manchester City)

Substitutes: 21 Danny Ings (Southampton) for Foden 68, 12 Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) for Sancho 73, 23 Mason Greenwood (Manchester United) for Kane 78

Substitutes not used:
13 Nick Pope (Burnley), 14 Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), 15 Michael Keane (Everton), 16 Jack Grealish (Aston Villa), 17 Mason Mount (Chelsea), 18 Ashley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal), 19 Conor Coady (Wolves), 20 Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United), 22 Dean Henderson (Manchester United)