England manager Roy Hodgson and his team know they are on a hiding to nothing against Iceland tonight. Everyone will expect England to win so there will be no glory in victory.
But were England to lose the match then then there would be blood on the carpet amidst a new outbreak of agonising over why the country which invented the game cannot reach the heights in major tournaments.
Of course Hodgson has made his own bed by making too many changes against Slovakia with the 0-0 result meaning Wales topped the group. He now has to lie on it.
He has been heavily criticised, rightly. But that will be nothing in comparison if Iceland were to win.
It’s matchday! 🦁
— England (@England) 27 June 2016
Of course they shouldn’t. We must bury the lowest ranked country still in the tournament, with a population the size of Leicester. But for that to happen we have to start scoring goals.
Harry Kane is out of sorts and Hodgson seems unclear how to get the best out of a talented forward line which also includes Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Marcus Rashford.
Midfielders Adam Lallana and Wayne Rooney are playing some good football, but Jack Wilshere, out for virtually the whole season with injury, has lost his spark. Selecting him in the squad after such a long lay-off was a gamble and at the moment it is failing to pay off.
The defence, particularly the central defence of Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill, hasn’t been tested so far and won’t be pressurised by Iceland.
But, given what the so-called minnows like Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland have already achieved – Wales fight on while the Irish go home as heroes, all three having got out of their respective groups – we have to recognise that Iceland, if they get lucky, yet sure to put in massive application and energy, could nick it.
Defender Ragnar Sigurdsson said: “I believe we can beat England. We do not back down from anyone. We will not be overawed. Even if we grew up watching English players it was not these guys. We don’t care. We will give it everything we’ve got.”
It just needs a Gylfi Sigurdsson free kick to nestle into the net and England will be shocked to the core.
England must beat Iceland and beat them well to build confidence before facing France in the quarter-finals and one of Spain, Germany and Italy in the last four.
Rooney wary of Iceland threat ahead of last 16 showdown
Rooney said: “Iceland are a well-organised side but we are confident. We have a very good team.”
The betting must be that England get past Iceland but then go out to France. Being the home nation, the French have a huge advantage.
Of course England can’t do anything about what they do not have, and they do not have a great player, a Paul Pogba, a Gareth Bale, Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
And you need a great player or two to win the Euros, probably two or three to win a World Cup.
Yet, facing the ice men is England’s opportunity to put it all together, settle on a cohesion and team system which brings out the best in the squad, and give themselves a great chance to turn over at least one big name.
If England get to the semis then anything can happen. The British people have voted to leave Europe; Hodgson will be desperately hoping to remain.
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