Who could have predicted that? In the biggest upset of the tournament, Iceland knocked England out of EURO 2016 with a sensational defensive performance and two timely first half goals. It was a result that few could have envisioned, but with a population of only 330,000, which is roughly the size of Leicester, maybe the signs were there all along.
Iceland will head into the quarter-finals of EURO 2016 in their first ever appearance at a major tournament. Two first half goals for Iceland was enough to knock England out of the tournament and result in the resignation of manager Roy Hodgson.
England was terrible for almost the whole 90 minutes, but the attention should fall on Iceland’s resolute performance far more than it should on England’s shortcomings. Ironically it was England that got off on the front foot when Raheem Sterling won a penalty after just a few minutes. Wayne Rooney scored the ensuing kick and England looked like they were about to end Iceland’s dream run into the knock-out stages. But rather than take control, things started to fall apart for the three lions.
Only two minutes later, Iceland leveled the score following a long throw in and Ragnar Sigurdsson was there to put in the loose ball. England’s defense showed first signs that it would have trouble dealing with the hard work of the Iceland attack.
After 12 minutes Iceland struck again. England’s defense couldn’t close down any of Iceland’s forwards which allowed time and space to Kolbeinn Sigthorsson who’s low shot snuck past Joe Hart. Hart, who hasn’t been on the best run of form recently made a mess of Sigthorsson’s shot, and he’ll have to feel he should have done better.
There was no more scoring for the remaining 70 minutes as England struggled to launch a successful attack. Poor passing, terrible set pieces, but most importantly, Iceland’s terrific defending kept England from ever creating any clear cut chances. As a matter of fact, the best two chances in the second half came from Iceland counter attacks that Hart managed to stop.
As the match went on, Hodgson tried to find a solution on his bench. Jack Wilshere and Jamie Vardy came on early in the second half but neither provided enough of a spark. Vardy had one opportunity, but a wonderful intervention from an Iceland defender kept him from getting a shot off.
England’s best player on the night only played about 5 minutes. Marcus Rashford was a late sub and England finally had someone who looked capable of running through the Icelandic defense. One of the biggest criticisms that Hodgson will hear is why it took so long for Rashford to be brought on, especially since Rooney, who was taken off for the teenager, was quite poor on the night.
England never managed to level the score, the final chance from a corner went wide and England’s hopes of winning Euro 2016 vanished. Iceland, however, will play in the quarterfinals against France. Whether or not they can actually defeat France isn’t important today. Iceland gave the world a shock, and the small island nation made another island nation look silly, and they’ll be celebrating this win for a long time.