On Monday evening, England were subject to what was arguably the biggest surprise defeat of their history. Going into their round of 16 fixture against Iceland, England were the clear favourites. Iceland have a population nearly equivalent to the city of Leicester and, on paper, could not compete with the English team.
When it came down to it, however, England were outplayed by the dark horses of the tournament. Despite taking an early lead through a Wayne Rooney penalty, two sloppy moments of defending cost England a place in the quarter-finals. Ragnar Sigurdsson bundled home the first following a trademark long throw while Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s effort somehow made it into Joe Hart’s goal.
Only a matter of days after the UK chose to leave the European Union, the timing of England’s exit from Euro 2016 to a side ranked 34th in the world could not have been worse. It was an embarrassing display from a side with copious options and, when behind, England did not look capable of making the breakthrough.
After taking a brief period of time to recover from the shock, here are some things that came out of England’s defeat.
Hodgson Will Shoulder Blame But Players Were Missing In Action
Being at the helm of a sinking ship and falling on his sword so quickly after the game, Roy Hodgson will take the majority of the blame for England’s exit from Euro 2016. On many occasions his tactics were poor; Continuing to play 4-3-3 when it doesn’t work, playing strikers like Daniel Sturridge out on the wing, putting the most prolific Premier League striker of this season on corners and free kicks and leaving it until the last minute to make a substitution when chasing the game are just a few examples.
At the end of the day, however, no matter what team Hodgson put out on Monday they should have been capable of beating a team of Iceland’s calibre. In reality on the day, not one player lived up to their potential.
Joe Hart made yet another mistake in the England goal to put Iceland ahead. Harry Kane and Dele Alli failed to strike up the prolific partnership that saw Tottenham push for the Premier League title. Eric Dier, who had been England’s most important player up until the Iceland game was simply dead weight and taken off at half-time. Even Wayne Rooney, who had been doing a great job for England in his new midfield role, chose this game to put on one of his worst performances in an England shirt.
England may have had the bigger names but they were ultimately embarrassed by a smaller team who simply planned how to defeat them. Iceland knew their tactics, executed them expertly and left their audience wondering who was actually the higher ranked team. They were committed, organised and demonstrated where you can get when you play as a unit.
Rashford Not Given Enough Opportunity
Prior to the tournament, that was a statement I never thought would be said. Marcus Rashford has made a sensational rise to fame in the past months, firstly for Manchester United and now for England.
With more experienced strikers including Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney all seemingly ahead of him when it came to choosing a starting XI, Rashford probably was not expecting to feature prominently during the competition. When it came down to it, however, perhaps he should have been given a lot more game time.
Against Iceland, Hodgson waited until the 86th minute before making his third substitute and bringing Rashford into the fray. Within minutes, the youngster imposed more of a threat than his teammates combined throughout the game. No matter who he is playing for or who he is playing against, Rashford has played with a confidence beyond his years.
When his teammates were happy to see out the game by passing the ball back and forth at a snail’s pace between the left wing and the right, Rashford showed that he was not afraid to run the ball into the box and worry defences. Either his fellow England teammates should take a leaf out of his book or Rashford should have been given a larger part to play in what turned out to be England’s final Euro 2016 game.
England Completely Lacking Width
With attacking minded full-backs and wide players in the side, width is something that you optimistically expect from England. The problem is, the only natural winger in the team was Raheem Sterling who has not been having his best tournament. Against a team as compact as Iceland, width was necessary to break them down.
The initial pairing was Sterling and Sturridge. Sterling played on the left wing and is right footed. Sturridge played on the right wing and is left footed. Sturridge is also a striker. Subsequently, instead of stretching the play and crossing into the box the duo would cut in on their favoured foot. With so little space through the middle, their opportunities to shoot were second to none.
On the hour mark Hodgson brought on Jamie Vardy for Sterling; Vardy being a prolific striker this season and also being right footed. Due to a lack of natural wingers in the squad, players were being played out of position and away from the areas where they could actually be effective. As shown with their goals against Wales, Vardy and Sturridge are strikers. Had they been played as such perhaps England would not be out the competition right now.
The Icelandic Players & Fans Are A United Force To Be Reckoned With
They may be the smallest nation in the competition but the relationship between the Icelandic players and their fans is enviable. Iceland fans have become renowned during the tournament for the “Huh”and it is quite the sight.
The supporters clap and shout in unison, gradually increasing in volume and speed. It is hugely intimidating and when the Icelandic players went over to join them in celebration after the final whistle, it demonstrated the tight bond between the players and their fans.
Going into the tournament with little pressure and expectation, Iceland have been able to play their way with the ceaseless support of their fans. Now they find themselves in the quarter-finals of a major tournament and are showing where you can get to with belief and determination. With England now out of the competition, I’m sure the Leicester City of the Euros have earned themselves a few more honorary fans.
Time To Get Behind England Women For Euro 2017
This time last year, England Women were on their way to the Women’s World Cup Semi-Final. Ultimately, the team were able to secure third place after beating a top ranking German side for the first time in twenty attempts. Now England are ranked fourth in the world and have qualified for Euro 2017 with two games to spare.
Most recently, the England team secured two 7-0 victories against Serbia on the bounce; That’s fourteen goals scored in two games. With the men’s team disappointing in France, eyes will turn to the Netherlands next summer in the hope that the women’s team can bring back some silverware. After such a disappointing show in Euro 2016 from the men, it is now time to get behind the women’s team who have a real chance of winning Euro 2017 next summer.