Euro 2016: England 1 Iceland 2

To be honest, I am angry right now, and thus, should probably not be writing up this match right now. The flip side to that is that it will be brutally honest.

We were not good enough. The lack of creativity and composure in the final third of the pitch has been a weakness in every game of the tournament thus far, and our delivery from set pieces has been woeful. England fans were booing their team tonight, and with good reason – mad, overhit crosses were never going to cut it against a side that had already demonstrated they could shut teams out.

The tempo was nothing at all like what was seen against Russia and Wales. The verve and style on show in the first two games was lost, replaced by some (yet more) strange decisions from manager Roy Hodgson. Why did Sterling, who had failed to offer anything in the first two games, start? Why was Lallana, who had played well, dropped? Why was Kane brought back in, when he had played poorly against Russia and Wales?

Yet it wasn’t simply a lack of punch that cost England against Iceland. Despite some early promise that brought a penalty and a goal within the first five minutes (Rooney slotting home), the slightest hint of danger and England were in a panic. Iceland equalised within two minutes, when poor awareness and concentration allowed Sigurdsson to tap in from point-blank range.

Rather than keeping focused, England blanched. Expectations of England have never been lower (no one seriously believed they would win the tournament), but surely Iceland would not prevent progress to the quarter-finals? Surely, the players who earn so much and play so well for their clubs would overcome the plucky team from a nation of just 330,000 people?

Nope. On 18 minutes England’s defence reacted far too slowly, failing to close down a swift set of passes, and Sigthorsson, whose shot was nevertheless fairly tame. Somehow, Hart conspired to let it through, despite getting a hand to it, watching as it crossed the line, almost in slow motion.

From the moment Iceland took the lead England ran out of ideas. There was huff, and puff, and plenty of running, but the final ball was lacking in any quality. Try as they might, England could not muster up the invention to unlock Iceland’s stubborn defence (though credit must go to Iceland for their spirit and workrate). Once again Kane was taking set pieces (why Roy, why?), and even the arrival of Vardy could not help England find a way through. Rashford’s late arrival brought a bit of extra energy to proceedings but it was too little, too late. Iceland claimed a huge scalp, whilst England limped out of Euro 2016, tails firmly between legs.

 

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