England frozen out by Iceland

I’m sure the 27th of June 2016 will live long in the memories of England supporters, it’s just a shame it will be for all the wrong reasons. After finishing as runners-up of the group, Roy Hodgson’s men were drawn against Iceland, a country with the population of Coventry, in the round of 16. Without a professional league in their native homeland and a manager who works as a part-time dentist, the proverbial ‘minnows’ were clearly branded as the underdogs going into the tie. However, their dogged determination and tenacity, which is encompassed by captain Aron Gunnarsson in particular, meant they were no pushovers. 

As we all found out versus Russia and Slovakia, our inability to break down the more defensive sides is a major problem. Despite that, we took the lead via a Wayne Rooney penalty after just four minutes and any nerves were cooled somewhat. At this point, I and many others were optimistic that we could see the game out. ‘Iceland don’t offer too much going forward and now they have to search for an equaliser, we can profit from the space in behind’ is what I’m sure we were all thinking. What could possibly go wrong? Well, in typical fashion we failed to stamp our authority and we bowed out of another major international tournament in spectacular style.

The calm before the storm in Nice (Courtesy of CJ Joiner).

Frail defence and a Hart problem

In the build-up to Euro 2016, plenty of questions were raised regarding the defensive capabilities of the squad. During the four games they played in the tournament, the back four wasn’t really called into action too often. However, when they were required to fulfil their responsibilities they failed drastically. All of the goals we conceded could’ve and should’ve been dealt with easily, but we contributed to our own downfall. The defending for both of Iceland’s goals that ultimately led to us crashing out was atrocious. A long throw-in created the first as Kyle Walker failed to track his man after England lost the initial header, and Joe Hart then faltered to concede a sloppy second, although his centre halves didn’t cover themselves in glory. 

Frail, forlorn forwards

Due to the unconvincing back line, everybody associated with England knew that we would be relying on our attackers to lead us to glory. On paper, we had one of the fiercest strike forces of any team in the competition. Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane notched 44 Premier League goals between them during the domestic campaign, whilst Daniel Sturridge and Marcus Rashford were also in great form. The previous three did manage to score a single goal each, but their overall performances were to be desired. Furthermore, the creative sparks in midfield didn’t light up France and England were left wanting going forward. 

A tactically inept manager

After the shambolic performances during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the Football Association took a huge risk in retaining Roy Hodgson. With a breath of fresh air in regards to the players within the squad, fans were given hope. Of course, that was indeed false and we looked clueless in all aspects of our game. Playing players out of position, setting up in a system that didn’t suit the personnel at his disposal and making questionable substitutions all caused people to be sceptical towards his role. Following the defeat to Iceland, Hodgson has since resigned as England boss and we are now looking to appoint his successor. 

Who should take the reigns?

There is no doubting that this next managerial appointment is absolutely crucial to the future of the national team. Despite our awful tournament, England undoubtedly have a very exciting group of players who should be capable of much more. Roy Hodgson’s ideas clearly didn’t work and rumours now suggest that there was a feeling of unrest amongst the squad. Whoever the new boss may be, they must come in and galvanise the players and get them drilled. Of course, there aren’t too many English managers at the top level of the game and that may pose a problem, but I would elect someone of our nationality. 

Gareth Southgate is the early favourite with the bookies after guiding the under-21’s to success in the recent Toulon tournament. That would be the easiest route for the FA to go down, but I would be looking at Eddie Howe. He has done an incredible job at AFC Bournemouth and he is a manager that likes to play on the front foot. With the attacking talents at our disposal, I think he could be the man to get the best out of them, and to accompany that, he has proved himself tactically also. Alan Pardew and Harry Redknapp have been linked too, and Sean Dyche is also a name that has popped up. Regardless of who comes in, we have to shake the shackles off and rid ourselves of this tentative mentality. 

It is now 50 years since England’s last major success (Courtesy of CJ Joiner).

Can we ever be successful again?

If you go on the current evidence, the answer would be a stern no. After watching every possible kick of the tournament, it was clear to see that we are miles away from the likes of Italy and Germany. The way in which football is coached in this country is still a major issue and we don’t seem to have an identity. No academy teams are coached in the same way and consequently, it becomes more difficult for players to buy into any unknown philosophies. The problem of foreign imports in the Premier League also raises concerns as the more talented English youngsters find chances more limited.

Whatever happens over the coming months before England kick off their World Cup qualifying campaign, us fans deserve much better. Time after time, we fail to live up to our potential and it’s difficult to take. Despite that, we continue to support the team and the fans that travelled to France were an absolute credit to our country. These players are on thousands of pounds a week, they need to do a lot better and now they have serious burnt bridges to mend. I really hope that we can go to Russia in 2018 and do ourselves proud, but I am not getting too optimistic regardless of our qualifying campaign. This is why…England have only won 6 knockout games since 1966: Paraguay 1986, Belgium 1990, Cameroon 1990, Spain 1996, Denmark 2002 and Ecuador 2006.

My word, supporting Coventry City and England is hard work.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. fuse53 says:

    Good article Matt even if it does make depressing reading. Roll on the start of the season!

    1. M_Roper says:

      Thanks mate! Can’t wait until August now!

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