Written by David Robinson
England will face Iceland in the last 16 of Euro 2016 on Monday 27th June. It looked like the Three Lions would be facing Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo and co. ready to go to battle again where England have endured a poor record against the Portuguese. With both Hungary and Portugal looking to settle on their 3-3 draw, it looked like we would be facing Fernando Santos’s men but a last minute winner from Iceland changed the shape of the tournament. England now face a nation with the smallest population in the competition which is just one of the reasons why the pressure has risen even more on the country to produce now more than ever.
credit Mick Baker
As if there wasn’t already enough pressure on the side going into the knockout stages, England face a nation with the population that is smaller than Bristol’s and slightly larger than Wakefield’s. That in itself should mean a foregone conclusion in terms of an England victory however football is not that simple and Iceland have qualified through on merit without losing any of their 3 matches. Their most recognisable names will include Glyfi Sigurdsson, Aron Gunnarsson and Johann Berg Gudmundsson who all ply their trade domestically in England. Those 3 by themselves will pose a threat with their own styles and while Iceland may not be as blessed with the same depth and quality as England, you can be sure they will not roll over. Hodgson will have to prepare for an aggressive match up and deal with factors such as Gunnarrson’s long throw. With small margins potentially making the difference, as we saw Iceland benefit from that weapon against Austria scoring from the long throw. This means the pressure will first and foremost be on to perform. If the England players go out and play like they did in the second half versus Slovakia there is a good chance they will be going home.
Despite qualifying through as expected, England will be disappointed to have finished second in a group of low quality having seen each team play. Performances aside, failing to beat an appalling Russia side and a Slovakia team who weren’t interested in going forwards has to go down as a failure on a match by match basis. While I think there is cause for disappointment there, we haven’t disgraced ourselves, yet with other top nations struggling as well, we simply have to beat Iceland otherwise another tournament will go down as a big failure.
A great opportunity has been handed to Hodgson to reach the Quarter-Finals, one that if England had anything about them as a team they should get through. His tactics have once again come under scrutiny which was always going to be the case should England fail to win. However the way England failed to break down Slovakia has left a deflated set of supporters pessimistic about the chances of England doing damage in France. With his job a pressured one as it is, he really does have to get a result otherwise criticism will be relentless and with the last two major tournaments under Hodgson in mind, deserved.
Failure to win in a one off game is the brutality of international football. Hodgson has to go should England fail to progress. It’s time to step up.
Will England get the victory against Iceland? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Mick Baker