Why everyone’s talking about Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood

England footballers are sent home after breaking Covid-19 rules in Iceland

England internationals Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood
England footballers are sent home after breaking Covid-19 rules in Iceland 
(Image credit: Nathan Stirk/2019 Getty Images)

Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood have been sent home after breaking Covid-19 rules while on international duty with the England senior team in Iceland.

It has been confirmed that Manchester City attacking midfielder Foden and Manchester United striker Greenwood will now miss England’s Uefa Nations League clash in Denmark tonight and the Football Association (FA) has launched an investigation.

Both players were also fined £1,360 by Reykjavik police.

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What happened?

After making their Three Lions debuts in Saturday’s 1-0 victory against Iceland, 20-year-old Foden and 18-year-old Greenwood were axed from the England squad after meeting with an Icelandic beauty queen and her cousin in the team hotel in Reykjavik on Sunday night.

England head coach Gareth Southgate confirmed that the duo had breached Icelandic Covid-19 guidelines. TalkSPORT understands that the quarantine protocols at the team hotel were so strict, players were not even allowed to meet their own family members.

In a statement the FA said: “Whilst in Iceland, both Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood spent time outside of our private team area, which was a breach of our Covid-19 rules.

“While they did not leave the team hotel, it was an unacceptable breach of our protocol. They have both apologised for their serious lack of judgement.

“The FA will be launching a full investigation into the circumstances leading up to this breach. We have spoken to the Football Association of Iceland to offer our apologies for this incident and to ensure them that we are taking the appropriate steps.

“We have also assured the Danish Football Union that all other players and staff members have been isolated within our group throughout this period. Our immediate priority now is preparing the team for the match against Denmark.”

Foden’s grovelling apology

Man City star Foden issued a “grovelling apology” for the unacceptable breach, The Sun reports.

In a social media post, he said: “I apologise to Gareth Southgate, to my England team-mates, to the staff, supporters and also to my club and my family.

“On this occasion I made a poor decision and my behaviour didn’t meet the standards expected of me. I will learn a valuable lesson from this error in judgement and I wish Gareth and the team good luck this week.”

In response to the incident Man City said: “It is clear that Phil’s actions were totally inappropriate. His behaviour not only directly contravenes strict guidelines related to Covid-19, but also falls well below the standard expected of a Manchester City player and England international. The club supports the FA regarding this incident, and officials from the club are now in touch in relation to Phil’s enforced early return to the UK.”

Greenwood breaks silence

The Daily Mail says Greenwood has also broken his silence after being axed from the England squad.

“It was irresponsible of me to break the Covid-19 protocols which are in place to protect players, staff and the public,” the teenager admitted. “In particular, I want to apologise to Gareth Southgate, for letting him down, when he had shown great trust in me.

“Playing for England was one of the proudest moments in my life and I only have myself to blame for this huge mistake. I promise my family, the fans, Manchester United and England that this is a lesson I will learn from.”

His club’s statement read: “Manchester United are liaising with the Football Association and are disappointed with the actions of Mason Greenwood over this situation.”

England manager Gareth Southgate takes training ahead of the match against Montenegro

(Image credit: Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Southgate: they were ‘naive’

The dropping of Foden and Greenwood from the squad’s biosecure bubble and the suspension of Kyle Walker means Southgate will only have 21 players to choose from for tonight’s match against the Danes (7.45pm, live on Sky Sports).

When asked about the incident the England boss described the youngsters as “naive”.

“I think at the moment I’m trying to take a lot of information in,” he said. “Obviously they have been naive, we have dealt with it appropriately. I recognise their age but the whole world is dealing with this pandemic.

“I’m a father with children, young adults, I know people get things wrong. I’m not excusing that in this instance.

“These are two boys I don’t know particularly well at the moment so can’t speak in great depth. I have got to try and speak with them later in the appropriate way. They have got responsibilities and they have apologised.”

Sky Sports says European football’s governing body Uefa has “accepted” the version of events provided by Southgate and FA officials, and that the rest of the squad remains bio-secure.

It’s also been concluded that there is no reason for tonight’s Nations League game to be compromised.

What happens next?

Have Foden and Greenwood damaged their chances of selection in the future? Southgate said it was too early to say, The Guardian’s David Hytner reports.

However, according to The Sun the pair won’t just miss the match in Denmark but could also face a further three England games on the sidelines after their behaviour.

Next month the Three Lions will play a triple header at Wembley Stadium in London. They take on Wales in a friendly on 8 October followed by Nations League fixtures against Belgium and Denmark, on 11 and 14 October respectively.

Updated England squad to face Denmark (7.45pm BST)

Tammy Abraham (Chelsea), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Conor Coady (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Jack Grealish (Aston Villa), Dean Henderson (Manchester United), Danny Ings (Southampton), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Michael Keane (Everton), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley), Declan Rice (West Ham United), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)

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Mike Starling is the digital features editor at The Week, where he writes content and edits the Arts & Life and Sport website sections and the Food & Drink and Travel newsletters. He started his career in 2001 in Gloucestershire as a sports reporter and sub-editor and has held various roles as a writer and editor at news, travel and B2B publications. He has spoken at a number of sports business conferences and also worked as a consultant creating sports travel content for tourism boards. International experience includes spells living and working in Dubai, UAE; Brisbane, Australia; and Beirut, Lebanon.