Fairy tales and Heartbreak in Nice at the Allianz Riviera. Giant Killer and Cinderella stories abound!
June 27, 2016
England 1 – 2 Iceland
Referee: Damir Skomina from Slovenia
Hart, Rose, Smalling, Cahill, Walker, Rooney (Rashford 86’), Dier (Wilshire, 46’), Alli, Sterling (Vardy, 60’), Kane, Sturridge
Halldorsson, Skulason, R. Sigurdsson, Arnason, B Saevarsson, A. Gunnarsson, G. Sigurdsson, B. Bjarnason Gudmundsson, Bodvarsson (Trautason, 88’), Sigthorsson (E. Bjarnason, 77’)
A shocking Round of 16 match no matter how you look at it and Iceland’s fairytale story continues into the Quarter Finals. England are handed a very embarrassing defeat and Roy Hodgson resigns shortly after the match. It is important to note that Iceland played well and England played poorly. This point should be made as both sides have a lot to take away in this match.
Iceland is absolutely making the most out of their underdog position. This game proved that they are not to be underestimated. If England had paid attention and scouted them properly they may not have been as shocked by their tactics and have been better prepared. Again, its good to remember that this Icelandic team beat the Netherlands – twice – in qualifying. They earned their right to be in the tournament and they have earned their place in the quarters. This small nation has mighty hearts and anyone not paying attention deserves what they get.
The match actually had a dream start for England who earned a penalty in the opening minutes of the match. Iceland keeper Halldorsson fouled Sterling in the box, being unable to clear the ball. Wayne Rooney opened the scoring with the successful penalty. The keeper did guess the right way but Rooney’s ball was too strong.
However, Iceland decided not to go with the English script and got right back to business. As is a common part of their play, Iceland played a long ball up the pitch after the restart and Rose was unable to keep it in play. The Icelandic Gunnarsson’s long throw into the box found Arnason who headed the ball, which landed right at the feet of Sigurdsson who notched it home. Fans of Iceland have seen this play throughout Euro qualifying but England (and I, to be fair) didn’t do their homework and were shocked by the result.
The opening fifteen minutes had tremendous pace and I questioned whether it would be possible to keep this up. Both Alli and Kane had strong shots for England but both could not find the net. However, I should not have been worrying about the pace of the game but instead with the ability for England to get a handle on what was going on. In the 18th minute, Iceland again had another long throw in and Gunnarsson took a shot which I thought would be easily brushed off by the keeper. I was very wrong. A very clear goal keeper error allowed Iceland to lead England within 20 minutes.
Here’s a clip of the goal if you can bear to watch
It’s not a shock that England were completely disjointed and really had no idea what hit them. However, they really needed to pull themselves together as they had at least twenty minutes left in the half, let alone a full second half to play. They had plenty of time to equalize but they just couldn’t seem to make things happen.
Harry Kane and Danny Rose did have a good chance or two in the next ten minutes but Iceland’s keeper was alert and well on his game.
ESPN’s commentators Darke and McManaman were in shock as well and one could almost forgive some of the frantic comments being made. One particularly interesting one was the concerns regarding the assistant referee not calling a penalty in the 38th minute after a tug on Sterling’s shirt. In my book, it would have been a soft call and not long into the second half, England themselves were forgiven a shirt tug when Chris Smalling’s tug on Sigurdsson’s shirt in the box was equally ignored. Sturridge also had a hand ball not called. I will not begrudge Darke and McManaman’s comments for as the game went on, there were no real comments about the referee and only criticism of the play. Even the condition of the pitch did not merit an excuse from McManaman, even though it was in poor shape. (His reasoning being that both teams had to play on it and that’s a completely fair point.)
Iceland kept up their steady play and almost scored again on a nice bicycle kick by Sigurdsson but the shot went straight to Hart.
England, however, just could not pull themselves together. There was no leadership and no sense of team work. They just completely seemed at a loss at what to do. This is in complete contrast to my last post about Belgium who also need to work on leadership but showed consistent team work and unselfish play with each other. And this is also in contrast to the other team on the pitch! The Icelandic fans, though outnumbered by English fans, were in great voice with chants of “IS-LAND! IS-LAND!” Even coach Hodgson seemed at a loss with substitutions that made little sense or came far too late. For example, Rooney left the pitch for Rashford in the 88th minute. Rashford had a good work ethic and tried to make some plays happen but by the time he made it onto the pitch, it seemed for naught. Iceland are through to meet France on Sunday. The French had better be on their toes.
As I mentioned, both teams have a lot to look at from this match. Iceland should take courage with their game plan and their “never say die” attitude. They have a lot to be proud of and they should also be quite grateful for the solid play of their keeper, despite his foul on Sterling in the early minutes of the match. And England…England have a lot to look at. Hodgson is already out and the FA will surely have a strong look at what happened. If England are to have a good showing in two years’ time in Russia, they will have to work on their leadership, their team work and for heaven’s sake, their scouting! If they are going to live up to their own press, they have to do their homework regarding the teams they play.
In the meantime, France will get to enjoy the Icelandic fans a bit more. However, they will need to take them very seriously if they plan to stay in their own party. Stay tuned.