England's defeat by Iceland a perfectly logical result
By Brian Homewood
NICE, France (Reuters) - England's 2-1 defeat by Iceland at Euro 2016 may have looked like one of the worst reverses in their history yet in many was it was a perfectly logical result.
For England, the last-16 defeat was the culmination in a series of embarrassing performances, including their failure to reach Euro 2008 and a first-round exit at the 2014 World Cup after losses to Italy and Uruguay and a draw with Costa Rica.
For their victorious Icelandic opponents, who face hosts France in the last eight, it was the next step in a spectacular rise which has seen them beat World Cup runners-up Netherlands home and away plus Czech Republic and Turkey in qualifying.
Bearing that in mind, and looking at the way the teams have been playing in France, the England result should not have been considered an upset at all.
England had managed only three goals in their three group games, one less than their opponents, despite facing arguably more modest opposition in Russia, Wales and Slovakia.
Iceland neutralised Cristiano Ronaldo as they held Portugal, one of the tournament dark horses, to a fully deserved 1-1 draw, led for most of the match against Hungary before drawing 1-1, then beat Austria, another highly-rated side, 2-1.
In fact, if anyone with no prior knowledge of the match had wandered into the stadium, they would have struggled to make out who were the former world champions and who were the tiny nation of 330,000 competing at their first major tournament.
Iceland's success at international level has largely been attributed to their blanket defence and work rate, but they showed that their game is more sophisticated than that.
Their defence was indeed superb, the highlight being Ragner Sigurdsson's last-ditch tackle on Jamie Vardy in the penalty area when the England forward was about to shoot.
But their passing and their movement were more assured and effective than England's, they broke dangerously and could ultimately have won by a greater margin.
They have scored six goals in four games, the same as Germany and France and fewer only than Belgium and Wales.
Although their first goal by Ragner Sigurdsson followed one of Aron Gunnarsson's trademark long throws, the second, scored by Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, followed an intricate tiki-taka style passing exchange on the edge of the area.
England froze once Iceland had gone ahead in the 18th minute and some of their play was so bad it was almost slapstick.
Their movement was ponderous, passes went astray under no pressure whatsoever and free kicks and crosses were over-hit.
Iceland's confidence was exemplified by forward Jon Dadi Bodvarsson when he was substituted in the 89th minute with his team tantalising close to victory.
Often, a player in such a situation would use up as much time as he could, wandering to the touchline, possibly feigning cramp and then shaking hands with the referee.
But there was none of that from Bodvarsson who sprinted off as if Iceland were happy for the game to continue for another half hour.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)