Its ‘Brexit’ as Iceland freeze England out of Euro 2016


Iceland's Ragnar Sigurdsson attempts an overhead kick REUTERS/Yves Herman Livepic
Iceland's Ragnar Sigurdsson attempts an overhead kick REUTERS/Yves Herman Livepic

England crashed out of Euro 2016 after a shock 2-1 defeat to Iceland, with the tiny country of just 330,000 sealing a quarterfinal date with France on July 3 in Saint-Denis.

Iceland, in their first-ever major tournament, fielded the same side for the fourth straight game, while England made six changes with Raheem Sterling coming in for Adam Lallana.

Daniel Sturridge had an earlier effort but his shot was dragged well wide inside two minutes and Birkir Mar Saevarsson then made a good block from Sterling who had found some space in the box.

A minute later, Iceland found themselves behind. Sterling broke free from a ball over the top and, though he was pushed wide, goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson brought him down for a penalty. Wayne Rooney stepped up and hammered it low into the bottom corner to net the earliest penalty in European Championship history.

But England were in front for just 34 seconds after kickoff. An Aron Gunnarsson long throw found the head of Kari Arnason and his flick on saw Ragnar Sigurdsson poke home from close range to make it 1-1.

Roy Hodgson’s men regrouped and had a decent spell of possession. On 15 minutes Dele Alli fizzed a well-hit shot just over the bar before his fine ball over the top was wasted by Sturridge on the counter attack.

Harry Kane then shot over from outside the area as England continued to press for another goal, but they were stunned as Iceland took the lead.

A neat passing move, full of one-touch passing, saw Kolbeinn Sigthorsson given room in the box and the striker’s low shot (his first on target at Euro 2016) crept under the dive of goalkeeper Joe Hart, who could not keep the ball from trickling over the line.

An incredible opening 20 minutes fizzled out somewhat as England looked stunned by the scoreline but Kane almost equalised before the half hour mark by hitting a wonderful volley from Sturridge’s deep cross which was palmed over the bar by Halldorsson.

Halldorsson was then happy to see Danny Rose’s low cross deflect into his grasp as England began to exert some pressure again; Rooney’s shot soon after went high and wide before Chris Smalling failed to direct a deep Kane free kick on target when only a few yards out.

Sturridge saw an effort saved by Halldorsson, while Rooney failed to connect with a volley after a nice pull-back from Kyle Walker and England went into the break 2-1 behind.

Jack Wilshere came on at half-time for Eric Dier as England tried to increase their attacking arsenal and the midfielder’s ball over the top almost found Alli who just failed to make contact.

But it was Iceland who almost extended their lead as an athletic overhead kick from centre-back Sigurdsson was palmed away by Hart at close range.

Hodgson made his second change on 60 minutes with Leicester striker Jamie Vardy coming on for the ineffective Sterling and England had an immediate chance to equalise as Alli connected with a Sturridge cross but blazed it well over the bar.

As the minutes ticked on, England looked more and more frustrated. Kane blasted a free kick well wide, while Wilshere was a long way from hitting the target with his effort.

Kane slipped the ball through for Vardy to chase but the striker was brilliantly tackled by flying defender Sigurdsson in the box when any mistake would have resulted in another penalty.

With 20 minutes remaining, Saevarsson reminded that Iceland still carried a threat on the counter as he cut inside to shoot over the bar.

Iceland replaced some tired legs but England threatened again after Wilshere’s diagonal ball found Kane — his header, though, was easily gathered by Halldorsson.

The minnows put men behind the ball in the closing stages and almost scored another on the counter. Gunnarsson ran the length of the pitch to get on the end of a fine through ball but Wilshere tracked him all the way and did enough to ensure that his shot was easily blocked by Hart.

Hodgson’s final roll of the dice came as 18-year-old Marcus Rashford made his bow in the 86th minute for Manchester United teammate Rooney. However, the youngster could do nothing about the scoreline. Vardy’s late header flashed wide and England crashed out as Iceland progressed to the quarterfinals to meet France.

Report by ESPN FC/Soccernet.com

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