Euro 2016: What went wrong for England against Iceland?
When Iceland beat Austria in the final group stage match, everybody claimed it was England good fortune, as this would be their easiest route to the quarter-finals of UEFA Euro 2016. Little did they know that the Nordic minnows had other plans. Iceland pulled off one of the most staggering results in the history of European football by knocking England out of the Euros, thanks to goals from Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson. For a country playing in its first major tournament, qualifying for the championships itself was hailed as an achievement, let alone the present success that has underlined Iceland's reputation as a reckoning force in world football. The Icelanders came from behind to win 2-1 and set up a quarter-final tie against host nation and favorites France.
England’s exit at the Euros seems to be poetically in sync with Britain’s exit from the EU. For a country which boasts of a star-studded football team and is home to the richest sports league in the world, the Three Lions didn’t replicate the promise they displayed during the qualifying rounds which saw them finish unbeaten and on top of the group. Take nothing away from the Icelanders. They played their hearts out and defeated England with a powerful display of resilience and tactics. But, let’s look at what went wrong for the English team, who were pipped to be one of the contenders to win the championships.
1. Keeper woes
England have faced eight shots on target throughout the tournament and let in four of them, leading to the question – why are English goalkeepers pathologically unable to keep goals out? As things panned out, it was Joe Hart’s poor keeping that allowed the ball to crawl past him, handing Iceland the lead. The Manchester City keeper did pull off a great save towards the end, ensuring the loss remained by just the one goal, but that is little consolation given his poor show.
Hart has been one of the best keepers in recent times in Europe, but he had a very average season in the league, which also saw him being dropped to the bench. Was he the best option available to Roy Hodgson? In terms of experience and matches under the belt, it certainly looked like the easy option. With just 6 international appearances, picking Fraser Forster over Joe Hart would have instantly raised eyebrows. With many waiting to line him up first as the scapegoat, in case things went wrong, Hodgson had little choice but to go with an inconsistent Hart. But now his spot with the national team comes under scrutiny after letting in two goals, one of Gareth Bale’s free-kick against Wales and another today, of Sigthorsson, both of which should have been saved. Hart has enjoyed long spells without competition as the England number one, but it’s time to reevaluate and offer Forster, who had a brilliant season with Southampton, his shot as England’s shot stopper.