England vs Iceland at Euro 2016 Review

What a couple of days, huh?

The words used on ITV included embarrassing, humiliating and devastating. The sheer notion that we lost to Iceland was said to be deeply upsetting and likely to send our international game back by years.

Yes, I was bad. Of course it was. Anyone with eyes and a fundamental understanding of the basics of the game will see that. It’s inarguable.

However, this kind of talk is part of the problem. Criticising the players for their performance is fine. It was abject. But the idea that it is unthinkable that our eleven players could lose to theirs illustrates the problem. Dixon, Wright and Crouch struggled to explain how we could freeze so badly on the big stage, but is it any surprise?

There was no victory to be had in this game. Winning, and winning comprehensively, was the only option today. People were talking about the quarter final against France as if we were already there.

We aren’t owed anything. We haven’t won a knockout game in a major tournament for 10 years. Iceland, meanwhile, drew with Portugal less than two weeks ago. That no-win mentality, where a win is the absolute base level expected and anything but that is humiliating, is only going to throw these fragile man-children off kilter. Is it any wonder the players have no self-belief?

It was disrespectful and arrogant to suggest this should have been a walkover. Iceland are here on merit. They didn’t lose in their group games, they’re organised, they work hard, they do the small things right. We don’t. And ultimately they deserved the victory. They were better than us.

This insanity could be seen by the always-insane Glenn Hoddle in his commentary. He suggested Iceland’s long throw approach was from the 80s, as if that tactic was from the dark ages and Rory Delap wasn’t playing in the Premier League 5 years ago. Although with his dress sense I’m not surprised Hoddle’s references are tied to the 80s.

There’s no shame in losing to a team like Iceland. It was 11 professionals vs 11 professionals, and these things happen sometimes. It wasn’t like England were playing against me a small puppy. Two teams played, one underperformed, one overperformed, and the underdog won. It happens.

Hell, it happened in the Premier League this season. Did people forget what Leicester achieved? Having the best players doesn’t mean anything. I repeat, there is no shame in losing a football match to another football team.

What there is shame in is such an abject performance. I feel for the players with the level of pressure they’re under, but it was poor. I lost count of the amount of times one of our players looked for a pass and saw nothing. We were slow, our touch bad, our movement poor. I’ve always suspected players tend towards playing it safe for England to try and avoid crashing and burning, but here they did crash and burn. It was bad. Really bad. The players lost their composure after their second goal and never recovered. They were frazzled, and stayed it. We deserved to lose.

All of this preamble is not to suggest this isn’t disappointing. It was. After Brexit I thought I may not care how the national team did, so despondent was I with the nation. It took all of three minute to realise that just wasn’t true. Sterling was brought down, Rooney scored. I was on my feet in celebration. I did still care. I always care.

Joe Hart cares too. You can’t dispute that. But does he need to be roaring the anthem, psyching himself up for the game like he was heading in to an MMA fight? He’s a goalkeeper. A bit of calm and composure wouldn’t go amiss, especially after the mistakes he’s made in this tournament.

Hart wasn’t alone though. Kane was desperately poor all the way through the tournament, and never more so than tonight. His free kick from 41 metres in the second half more closely resembled performance art than a shot at goal. By the end of the game he’d resorted to the last bastion of the desperate striker: throwing himself to the ground in the box in the hope of getting a penalty. I think he learned that from Alli.

Rooney was bad too. I explained my worries about him in my previous reviews and tonight he amplified every part of it by 11. The looping, 70 yard passes. The poor control. The unnecessary driving at defences and losing possession. He’s our most experienced player, the captain, but when we needed a leader to help the Allis and Sterlings of this team pull it together he was a resounding failure. Once more he was crowbarred in because “he’s Wayne Rooney”, and for the fifth major tournament in a row he flattered to deceive.

But you can’t place the blame solely at his door. They’re all to blame in some way. Hodgson too, who has fallen on his sword after the game (with either Gareth Southgate or Alan Pardew to replace him if the bookies are to be believed. Lucky f*cking us).

So yeah, it was bad. The quality of our play was truly shocking at times, to the extent that Clive Tyldesley said that the rest of Europe wouldn’t remember this game.

I don’t know if I agree with that. After the last five days I think Europe might just remember England completely f*cking it up. Again.


Click below for links to the reviews of England’s other games in Euro 2016:

  1. vs. Russia
  2. vs. Wales
  3. vs. Slovakia

Check back in every Monday for the latest reviews. And why not follow me on Twitter while you’re at it?


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