Phil Foden and Declan Rice scored their first England goals as the hosts rounded off their disappointing Nations League campaign with a 4-0 demolition of 10-man Iceland on Wednesday.
Gareth Southgate’s side were already out of contention to reach the Nations League finals after Sunday’s defeat against Belgium.
But Southgate had insisted the dead rubber was important to his planning for next year’s European Championship and his players took that message to heart.
Rice netted in the first half at Wembley as he became the first West Ham player to score for England in 10 years.
Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount increased England’s lead before Foden struck twice after Iceland defender Birkir Mar Saevarsson was sent off for two bookable offences.
It was a sweet moment of redemption for Manchester City playmaker Foden, who had been sent home in disgrace along with Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood after the pair broke coronavirus protocols during their trip to Iceland in September.
Foden, 20, is the youngest England player to score more than once in a single match at Wembley.
For the first time since 1883, England had three players aged 21 or younger score in the same match.
It has been a frustrating year for Southgate as England struggled to establish any momentum on the pitch, while there was a rash of unwanted headlines provoked by several of his players’ off-field antics.
The England manager must be glad to see the back of 2020, but he will hope his team’s last game of the year serves as the springboard for a successful European Championship campaign.
England had managed just three goals in their previous five games, sparking criticism of Southgate’s cautious tactics.
But, inspired by Foden and another eye-catching display from Jack Grealish, this was a much more entertaining performance, albeit against weak opposition.
Southgate risked infuriating Premier League managers by refusing to rest his star players even though injuries have piled up during the international triple-header.
He named eight of the team that started in Belgium, but in Foden and Grealish it was two of the least experienced who stole the spotlight.
Grealish was the catalyst when England took the lead in the 20th minute as the Aston Villa winger’s trickery won the free-kick that produced the opener.
Foden took it and floated an inswinger towards Rice, who just beat the offside trap to glance his header into the far corner from six yards.
Grealish was proving impossible for Iceland to tame and his pass gave Bukayo Saka a sight of goal, only for Ogmundur Kristinsson to push away the wing-back’s shot.
Aided by Iceland’s shambolic defending, Mount doubled England’s lead in the 25th minute.
Mount showed quick feet and awareness as he seized on the loose ball from Saka’s cross and worked space to slot home from close range.
For both Mount and Rice to get on the scoresheet was a memorable moment for the pair, who have close friends since childhood.
England were running riot and Foden’s fierce strike drew a good save from the over-worked Kristinsson, who had to turn away another goalbound effort from the youngster moments later.
England captain Harry Kane has now gone six games without an international goal.
The Tottenham striker was inches away from ending that barren streak with two efforts that flashed just wide from the edge of the area.
Saevarsson saw red in the 54th minute after tugging back Saka and England finished the job in ruthless fashion.
Taking Jadon Sancho’s pass in stride, Foden broke his international duck when he guided a cool finish in the bottom corner in the 80th minute.
Foden has the potential to be one of England’s brightest stars and he rounded off the win five minutes later when he drilled home from 25 yards.