Euro 2016: England Recap and Iceland Preview
Last Monday night, England qualified for the last 16 of Euro 2016. They were unbeaten in their group but had to make do with finishing in second place, thus, giving themselves a more difficult route to the final. Even though the Three Lions are yet to suffer a defeat, many fans are not convinced that this squad has what it takes to win England’s first major tournament since 1966. However, they will back their team and, from now on in the competition, anything can happen.
After drawing against Russia in their opening game, a match England should have won comfortably, their attention went onto the game against Wales. It was played in a derby/cup final atmosphere and it was a match that England, on paper, should have won with ease. However, it’s not always that simple. Wales were up for the game and, although England had the better chances and more of the possession, they took the lead after a Gareth Bale long-range free-kick somehow found its way into the net. Manager Roy Hodgson made changes to his side at half time and they paid off. Substitutes scored twice for England. Leicester’s hero, Jamie Vardy and a very late Daniel Sturridge goal provided England with get out of jail free cards as the Three Lions won the game 2-1.
Roy Hodgson made six changes for the final group game against Slovakia. A draw would be enough to qualify, but to guarantee top spot and a potentially easier route to the final, England needed the win. Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Wayne Rooney and Deli Alli amongst others were rested as Hodgson tried to find a formula that would convert chances into goals. It did not work.
Slovakia played deep and got men behind the ball, which frustrated the England forwards time and time again. Vardy could not play his natural game. Rooney’s replacement, Jack Wilshere, did not look close to being fit or in form. With no natural width, England struggled to break down a stubborn Slovakian side who were happy to sit back and defend. The game ended 0-0. The point guaranteed their place in the last sixteen. However, with Wales convincingly winning their final game, England had to settle for second place.
Last Sixteen Preview: England vs. Iceland
A dramatic injury time winner from Iceland against Austria gave them a second place finish on goal difference. It also set up this clash with England. With a population of just 330,000, they should have little hope against the all-stars of England. However, if England underestimate them, they could be in big trouble. Iceland finished their qualifying campaign second in the group. This is group that contained the Czech Republic, Turkey and the Netherlands. And then, in the current tournament, they qualified, like England, unbeaten.
All the pressure is on the favourites, England, especially as they have been less than impressive in the final third of the field so far. Iceland have conceded in each of their Euro 2016 games so far. Can England and Roy Hodgson find a formula that can not only create chances but also finish them off? So far, England have had 64 shots on goal but have converted just three. With the likes of Harry Kane and other attack-minded players struggling, plus teams setting out to frustrate them, Iceland could take advantage. And that is the beauty of the game… for Iceland and neutral fans anyway.
There is no doubt that England have what it takes to secure their place in the quarter finals. Roy Hodgson must find that killer instinct amongst his side to be able to finish teams off when they are on top in the game. Hodgson also has a selection headache. Keep faith in the two forwards who have found the net so far in Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge. Or, he could recall Harry Kane and possibly Raheem Sterling. Wayne Rooney is a certainty to be recalled as is Dele Alli, especially if Kane regains his place. The two Tottenham players know each other’s game well. If given the opportunity to play roles similar to what they do at club level, then they could find success in France.
Whatever team/formation is picked, the Three Lions will be roared on by fans at home and in Nice’s Allianz Riviera. If Rooney and company can hit form, and now would be a good time, a potential showdown with France or the Republic of Ireland is on the horizon. Get it right and anything is possible. The great game of football teaches you that.
LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 29: Harry Kane talks with Jamie Vardy of England during the International Friendly match between England and Netherlands at Wembley Stadium on March 29, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)