Euro 2016: England vs Iceland – 5 players to watch out for
An acid test for Roy Hodgson, as England face underdogs Iceland in the Round-of-16 clash in Euro 2016.
Everyone loves the good old underdog stories. Sometimes the best moments happen when no one is expecting them to – that’s what makes upsets and underdogs so magical. What were the odds that football in 2016 would witness not one, but two? First it was Claudio Ranieri’s rejuvenated Leicester knocking off the stranglehold of ‘The Big 5’ on the Premier League crown, and now it’s the turn of Iceland at Euro 2016 to turn around the odds.
Iceland’s success story seems nothing short of a miracle. Expected to be on their way back home already, they instead find themselves headed for Nice, unbeaten, confidence at peak.
The result against Portugal gave them belief and the conviction that was very much evident in their last-gasp win over Austria. The beautiful image of the players and the staff joining much of Iceland’s 330,000 population in celebration, singing in unison at the Stade de France was a sight to behold.
England, on the other hand, were left ruing a missed opportunity. With much still at stake, Roy Hodgson made as many as six changes for the final group game against Slovakia, a tactic much criticised following a tame 0-0.
While the result ensured Slovakia’s progress, Wales’ demolition job of Russia in Toulouse pushed England down to the second spot. The sweetness of the last-minute win over rivals Wales quickly turned sour as England found themselves in the tougher half of the draw, with a potential clash against Spain, Italy or Germany almost certain, if Iceland can be overcome.
Here are five players who could make the difference in the clash.
1) Harry Kane
Harry Kane hasn’t had a particularly great tournament so far, but it would be fair to say that he isn’t the only one. Goals have been hard to come by at this year’s European Championships and strikers are finding it tough to get themselves involved as midfielders dominate the scheme of things.
None would know it better than England’s Harry Kane. Coming on the back of his finest season yet at Tottenham Hotspur, the leading scorer with 25 goals in the 2015-16 Premier League season, Kane hasn’t found his scoring boots yet in France.
By Kane’s own admission, at a presser on the eve of the Iceland clash, he doesn’t remember having a sight of the goal against the compact defences of Russia, Wales and as a second-half substitute against Slovakia. The fearsome partnership at Tottenham with Dele Alli seems to have fizzled out in England colours as Alli, instead of the free role behind the front man, has been shunted to a deeper midfield position under Roy Hodgson.
Following a dull and almost boring goalless draw against Slovakia in their final group game, Roy Hodgson has come in for heavy criticism for his gamble to rest six key players with much still at stake. In a desperate need for goals, Kane is expected to earn a recall to the starting line-up in a three-man attack alongside Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge as the pressure on Roy Hodgson and England mounts.