Another tournament has come and gone for the Three Lions with the usual frustration and disappointment that has followed for the past 50 years re-emerging after their in-excusable 2-1 loss to tournament outsiders Iceland in the last 16 match-up. Iceland is a country that boasts a population of only 330,000 which is about the size of Leicester so this puts the Icelandic’s achievement firmly into context.
It was a tournament that started so well with a perfect qualifying record of 10 wins out of 10 even though many said it was one of the easiest qualifying groups England have been involved in from memory. The only real test for England was a home and away clash against Switzerland, 2 games which they did actually win but that still wasn’t enough for some.
Anyway, England still came into the finals with high expectations and they were listed amongst the big guns as one of the favourites to win the tournament with hosts France at the top of the pile. However, as the tournament went on England’s price gradually increased and they were the 7th favourite for the tournament come the last 16 round.
England made a good start to the finals in France as they as good as dominated their opening match against Russia and deservedly took the lead in the second half via an Eric Dier free-kick. But just as England thought they had their first Euro finals win in an opening game, Russian Berezutski popped up in the area to head home a 93rd minute equaliser and deny England the win. Next up were Wales in the first all UK derby of the tournament. The pattern of this match followed on from the Russian game with England dominating possession and even a Gareth Bale free-kick which gave Wales the lead didn’t change the play. England eventually emerged victorious with goals from substitutes Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge which put England top of Group B and all was well with the world. England’s final match of the group stage was against Slovakia, a team who lost to Wales a few day’s prior so hopes of another win were high in the England camp. Again England looked to dominate possession, which they did, but were unable to break down a stubborn Slovakian defence and with Wales thrashing Russia 3-0 England suddenly found themselves 2nd in Group B putting themselves in the bad half of the knockout stages, the same half that housed Germany, Spain, Italy and France!
So onto the last 16 and luckily England faced tournament outsiders Iceland and the bookies quite rightly made them big favourites to progress. They became even bigger favourites when Wayne Rooney scored a 4th minute penalty, a perfect start to what should be a straight forward win. Unfortunately Iceland hit right back through Sigurdsson and unbelievably took the lead 10 minutes later through Sigporsson. England just couldn’t recover from this and failed to create an real chance as Iceland restricted the favourites to wild strikes from outside the 12 yard box. So England were once again eliminated and now have to face the wrath of the media for the next year or so. Their manager Hodgson quit instantly, probably to avoid all of the inevitable questions and took his assistants with him leaving the England team in disarray in the space of a couple of hours.
England must now concentrate on their 2018 World Cup campaign where they will face Slovakia, Slovenia, Scotland, Lithuania and Malta in the qualifying group. But first however, they need to find a new manager!
Some things just never change with England.