Iceland vs England: Which young stars will seize Nations League chance to become first-XI regulars?

Watch Iceland vs England live on Sky Sports Football and Main Event from 4.30pm on Saturday; kick-off 5pm.

Gareth Southgate
Image: Gareth Southgate will have different options open to him at next year's Euros

It is fascinating to consider how Gareth Southgate and England would be approaching these Nations League games had things gone as planned this year.

This double-header with Iceland and Denmark would have been the first time the national team had been together since Euro 2020.

Would they still be celebrating July's glorious triumph at Wembley, which finally ended all those years of hurt? Or would there be painstaking questions over the direction of the team after a disappointing early exit?

Live UEFA Nations League

There could be new leaders in the team after heroic performances - or there could be players axed after failing on the big stage. Would Southgate still be in charge at all?

As it is, those scenarios have been postponed by 12 months. Instead, these games, as well as building towards a shot at Nations League silverware at the end of 2021, will also provide an opportunity for England's young players. Emerging talents, who would not have been at the Euros at all, can begin to earn their place in Southgate's plans and work towards a spot at next summer's delayed European Championships.

There is a strong chance Southgate's starting XI in June 2021 will look quite different from the one he was planning to go with at this summer's tournament.

The absence of Harry Maguire, because of his court case in Greece, and the unavailability of players such as Marcus Rashford, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Harry Winks, and Ben Chilwell through injury, has also opened the door for others to stake a claim.

Also See:

Jack Grealish 0:49
Jack Grealish admits he was devastated not to be included for England squads in the past, but says he is now over the moon to be selected, and views it 'like a trial'

Indeed, Jack Grealish, who eventually landed his first call-up to the senior squad following Rashford's withdrawal, has described this week "more or less like a trial".

Players such as Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Conor Coady, and Leeds' Kalvin Phillips may feel the same way and will be working hard to convince Southgate they deserve another call-up next month, when England take on Wales in a friendly before more Nations League contests against Belgium and Tuesday's opponents Denmark.

Beyond the players in the current squad, there are a whole host of U21s with ambitions of stepping up, too. Bukayo Saka and Callum Hudson-Odoi will surely be in Southgate's thoughts, while the delay could also give 17-year-old Jude Bellingham time to show he will be ready, after a season in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund.

Selection dilemmas for Southgate

Southgate could also see this time as an opportunity to reset his line-up from front to back.

For instance, he may have been tempted to stick with the experience goalkeeper Jordan Pickford had built up with the team at a World Cup and Nations League finals for Euro 2020, but would now be an opportunity to bed-in a new 'keeper such as Nick Pope?

While Pickford struggled last season, Pope recorded 15 clean sheets in the Premier League, second only to Liverpool's Alisson, and could use the Nations League campaign and early rounds of World Cup qualifying in March next year to build up familiarity with England's defence.

GRAPHIC
Image: Will Jack Grealish and Jordan Pickford be in England's starting XI with Harry Kane at next summer's European Championships?

Further forwards, Southgate may feel 20-year-old Phil Foden will be ready to start for England at next summer's tournament. So what type of other midfielders would need to come into the side to complement him?

And how does Southgate best use the talents of Mason Greenwood, who has burst onto the scene so emphatically he will surely need to be in the equation when the manager is weighing up his attacking options, along with Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho?

Phil Foden won the Under-17 World Cup with England  three years ago
Image: Phil Foden could be an England starter by next summer

While the postponement of Euro 2020 will be a missed opportunity for some - and there will be players who would have featured who will now drop out of contention - it will also present an opportunity for others.

While the postponement of Euro 2020 will be a missed opportunity for some - and there will be players who would have featured who will now drop out of contention - it will also present an opportunity for others.
Sky Sports' Peter Smith

Time is on the side of these young emerging players. And Southgate, beginning with Iceland on Saturday, will need to adapt his plans to come up with the best combination he can, 12 months later than expected.

Southgate: Maguire to return next month

Southgate plans to bring Maguire back into the England set-up next month having withdrawn the defender from this squad following his Greek court case.

Four days after his arrest in the early hours of August 21 following an alleged incident on the island of Mykonos, the 27-year-old was found guilty of assaulting a police officer, swearing, resisting arrest and bribery.

Harry Maguire 0:51
Gareth Southgate plans to bring Harry Maguire back into the England set-up next month having withdrawn the defender from this squad following his Greek court case

Maguire maintains his innocence and has lodged an appeal with the Greek court system, with the Manchester United captain saying he feared for his life during his arrest.

"It's been clearly a really difficult period for him," said Southgate. "I think the last few days have been very important for him to be able to relax and get away from all the attention - mentally get a rest, because of course he had a short break anyway but then the events that happened in Greece really dominated that.

"I think he needed that switch off and he'll be able to go back to his club, and absolutely we would be looking to involve him in October."

    Remembered: The game England wish they could forget

    Ragnar Sigurdsson celebrates Iceland's first goal in their 2-1 win over England at Euro 2016
    Image: Ragnar Sigurdsson celebrates Iceland's first goal in their 2-1 win over England at Euro 2016

    It will go down as perhaps England's worst-ever defeat at a major tournament. The embarrassing defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016 was described as "shambolic" by Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher and as Iceland's fans performed their famous Thunder Clap after the final whistle, boss Roy Hodgson headed down the tunnel to resign.

    Wayne Rooney had given England an early lead with a penalty but goals from Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kolbein Sigthorsson, coupled with an abject second-half performance where England barely threatened to get back into the match, condemned the Three Lions to a humiliating exit.

    England's defender John Stones, England's defender Gary Cahill, England's midfielder Ross Barkley, England's forward Daniel Sturridge
    Image: England trudge from the pitch after one of the worst defeats in their history

    "I would have loved to stay on for another two years, however I am pragmatic and know that we are in the results business," Hodgson said afterwards. "My contract was always up after the Euros, so now is the time for someone else to oversee the progress of this young, hungry and talented group of players."

    Former England manager Steve McClaren, watching the Iceland game for Sky Sports News, was feeling encouraged at 1-1 - until Kolbeinn Sigthorsson's 18th-minute goal left him stunned...

    Southgate would be that man, leading England to the World Cup semi-finals two years later. Now he has the opportunity to score some revenge for England over Iceland on Saturday night - but that night in Nice will never be forgotten.

    England's starting XI for the Euro 2016 game with Iceland
    Image: England's starting XI for the Euro 2016 game with Iceland

    England XI vs Iceland in Euro 2016: Hart, Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose, Alli, Dier, Rooney, Sturridge, Kane, Sterling. Subs: Wilshere, Vardy, Rashford

    Sky Sports Fantasy Football is back!

    Sky Sports Fantasy Football is back!

    Another year, another £50,000 jackpot on the line. Sky Sports Fantasy Football makes its return for the 2020/21 season.

    Around Sky