England 1-2 Iceland
English football reached its lowest ever point, as minnows Iceland knocked the Three Lions out of Euro 2016. Roy Hodgson left his position as manager vacant less than an hour after the match had finished. England’s failure to come back from a one-goal deficit in all of seventy-five minutes left the nation watching yet another tournament of pure and utter underachievement for the former World Cup winners.
Wayne Rooney, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Dele Alli were amongst those that returned to the starting line-up for England ahead of their crucial Round of 16 match with Iceland. The surprise Group F runners-up fielded the same starting eleven for the fourth game. With just two minutes on the clock, Daniel Sturridge found Raheem Sterling’s run with a beautiful pass from near the half-way line. The Manchester City youngster latched onto it, before crucially tapping the ball away from goalkeeper Hannes Halldórsson. The keeper and part-time film director took Sterling down and England had the chance to convert a fourth minute penalty. Up stepped captain Wayne Rooney, and he placed the ball perfectly, with power, into the bottom-left corner. It may be a surprising statistic, but it was Rooney’s seventh tournament goal, and he has now scored in England’s last three tournaments too. England were off to a flyer – ahead within five minutes.
Iceland’s Aron Gunnarsson has an exceptionally long throw-in. And just thirty-four seconds after the kick-off, Iceland used it to good effect. The Iceland captain’s throw was helped across goal by Kári Árnason and there to slide in and volley past Joe Hart was fellow centre-back Ragnar Sigurðsson. The number six – who plays for FC Krasnodar in Russia – ran away in delight. England led for two minutes. England 1-1 Iceland. England continued to dominate procedures, but their lack of clear-cut chances came back to well and truly haunt them, as they found themselves behind on eighteen minutes. Some counter-attacking play from Iceland, left the minnows queuing up outside the England box. Former Ajax striker Kolbeinn Sigþórsson sold a fake shot to Gary Cahill before shifting the ball to make space for himself. His low shot squirmed underneath Joe Hart – and Iceland’s players ran off in extreme utopia. The goalkeeper’s dismal, amateurish attempt to make up for some also unacceptable defending was not enough to prevent the minnows leading; not enough to prevent the team from looking at one another in disbelief; and not enough to prevent Roy Hodgson holding a face of pure, pure embarrassment, the likes of which we have never seen from him before. Dele Alli volleyed over Halldórsson’s crossbar. Harry Kane volleyed at Halldórsson’s outstretched hand. And goalscorer Wayne Rooney volleyed into the ground and miles past Halldórsson’s right-hand post. But England did not score again, and did not look as if they would before the break. As Slovenian referee Damir Skomina’s whistle blew, the scoreboard at the Allianz Riviera in Nice, unbelievably, read England 1-2 Iceland.
The second half did not start much better, even with Jack Wilshere and Jamie Vardy both on: for Eric Dier and Sterling. Again England kept pushing without really troubling the defence, and again Iceland, on the counter-attack, were handed the first clear-cut chance. Their deep corner kick was headed back into the box by the ever-energetic Gunnarsson. Second goalscorer Sigþórsson headed down to Iceland’s deadlock-breaker Ragnar Sigurðsson. The centre-back, enjoying an attacking party, produced an acrobatic overhead kick which, more than anything, hit Joe Hart, and the Three Lions cleared the ball.
Next, Roy Hodgson’s ever-challenged decision to make Kane the free-kick taker was given even more opportunity for intense scrutiny. The Tottenham man fired an almost impossible shot, all of forty-one metres from the goal, wobbling way, way wide. Depressing. Missing. Losing. Wilshere played an inch-perfect ball through to Harry Kane, but again the semi-professional keeper proved his value to Lars Lagerbäck’s side, with a well-performed catch from Kane’s header.
As England became increasingly desperate, youngster Marcus Rashford came on, quite probably much too late, to try and make an impact. As the Three Lions began to lose their concentration, Iceland continued to threaten from needless counter-attacks. A long ball through the England defence left Aron Gunnarsson facing Jack Wilshere, and Joe Hart beyond. He worked a way to lose Wilshere and then fired from close in. Joe Hart parried wide. Daniel Sturridge’s stoppage-time cross was connected with by Vardy, only for his header to be blocked by an Icelandic head. England’s corner came to Chris Smalling, but the almost too ‘pumped-up’ Joe Hart got in his way, up from his goal. Smalling headed wide, and England were left lying on the floor. Another dismal tournament for a side that should be threatening large teams and easily dispatching of team like Iceland at tournaments.
Remarkable scenes from an Iceland point of view, but Roy Hodgson resigned shortly after the match, taking Ray Lewington and Gary Neville with him. Unbelievably, it ended England 1-2 Iceland in the second round in Nice.