An industrious and composed Iceland eleven deservedly overcame England in a surprise result on Monday evening at the Allianz Riviera in Nice.
A goal down early on, the spirited Icelanders struck back quickly with a brace of goals and comfortably repelled English second half huffing and puffing to record a famous victory.
With just three minutes on the clock, Sturridge punted a rather hopeful ball into the area. Giving chase, the recalled Raheem Sterling went down rather easily under a challenge from Hannes Halldórsson. Damir Skomina, the perceived fittest referee in the tournament, awarded the spot kick.
England captain Wayne Rooney dispatched the penalty low to the keeper’s right and into the bottom corner. It appeared the ideal start for the hot favourites in the last of the round of sixteen matches.
But the underdogs levelled within little more than a minute. The trademark long throw on the right from Cardiff City’s Aron Gunnarsson was flicked on by Kari Arnason at the near post and Ragnar Sigurdsson gleefully rammed the ball past Joe Hart from a few yards out.
Dele Alli almost restored the Three Lions’ advantage with a rising right footed half volley that just cleared the Icelandic crossbar.
Two minutes later, Harry Kane tried a shot from outside the penalty area but that too flew over.
A long cross field ball by Gunnarsson and some slick Icelandic passing set up Kolbeinn Sigthorsson at the edge of the box. Inexplicably, Joe Hart allowed Sigthorsson’s low shot to squirm under his body and roll over the goal-line. Just two shots from Iceland in the first 18 minutes had produced two goals.
Moments later England could have been level, as Sturridge crossed for Kane to drive a volley goalwards, but Halldórsson helped it over the bar.
Then Iceland coluld have found themselves two up when Ari Skulason’s left foot curling drive flew narrowly wide of Hart’s left hand post.
Iceland continued to test Hart and their danger man Gylfi Sigurdsson tested him from distance but this time the Manchester City keeper saved easily.
England’s best chance came late on in the first half, as Walker crossed for Rooney but England’s all-time top scorer scuffed his half volley.
Five minutes into the second half, Kane rose high in the box to head Jack Wilshere’s cross goalwards but the effort lacked power and Halldórson gathered safely.
Clearly inspired by his first half opener, Sigurdsson attempted a spectacular overhead kick from a right wing corner. It could have been 3-1 to Iceland but Hart did enough to save this time.
Mid-way through the second period Kane played Vardy through but Sigurdsson’s tackle was perfectly timed, the Icelandic hero taking an accidental boot for his trouble.
As England pushed for a leveler Wilshere crossed again for Kane but the Tottenham striker was unable to generate any power in his header. At the other end, Gunnarson almost wrapped it up but Hart dived low to save. Arnason headed the resulting corner wide.
Rooney, who had grown increasingly ineffective and frustrated was withdrawn in favour of the youngest player ever to represent England, Marcus Rashford. Rashford made one promising foray but over ran another ball in the box on a night when he had been given very little time to impress.
The Three Lions then began to run out of ideas, as Kane hammered a left wing free kick high and wide to the derision of the England support.
Iceland qualified in second place to Hungary in Group F – a Hungary side that capitulated 0-4 to Belgium in the round of 16. They were 8/1 outsiders. Their country’s population is just about the same as Leicester’s. But organisation and spirit conquered all.
Roy Hodgson, who resigned from his position following the defeat, was castigated for his decision to make six changes from the team that came back to beat Wales in Lens. The veteran boss will be pilloried for this woeful performance and result.
It was felt England's 0-0 draw with Slovakia now meant they found themselves on the toughest side of the draw and Hodgson had been forced to defend his tactics. But that theory was looking ahead to France and possibly to Germany. Nobody reckoned on Iceland.
Iceland’s joint coach Lars Lagerback maintains his record of never having lost to England as a manager or assistant manager (which now stands at seven).
The Allianz Riviera is also known as the Grand Stade de Nice, the stadium was newly built for the start of Euro 2016. It will forever hold a place in Icelandic folklore.
The now legendary commentator Gudmundur Benediktsson called another memorable night.
England: Joe Hart, Kyle Walker, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling, Danny Rose; Dele Alli, Eric Dier (Jack Wilshere 46), Wayne Rooney (Marcus Rashford 86); Daniel Sturridge, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling (Jamie Vardy 60)
Subs Not Used: Adam Lallana, James Milner, Nathaniel Clyne, Fraser Forster (GK), Jordan Henderson, John Stones, Ryan Bertrand, Ross Barkley, Tom Heaton (GK).
Yellow Cards: Sturridge (47).
Iceland: Hannes Halldórsson; Birkir Saevarsson, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Kári Árnason, Ari Skúlason; Jóhann Berg Gudmundsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aron Gunnarsson (Emil Hallfredsson 65), Birkir Bjarnason; Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (Theódór Elmar Bjarnason77), Jon Dadi Bodvarsson (Arnór Ingvi Traustason 88).
Subs not used: Ingvar Jónsson (GK), Ogmundur Kristinsson (GK), Rúnar Már Sigurjónsson, Sverrir Ingi Ingason, 86, Hordur Magnússon, Hjortur Hermannsson, Haukur Hauksson, Heimir Hallgrímsson, Eidur Gudjohnsen.
Yellow Cards: G. Sigurdsson (38), Gunnarsson (65).
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia).
Attendance: 33,901 (Estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Ragnar Sigurdsson (Iceland).
John Manning began writing for Extratime.ie this year after retiring from the insurance industry. He has been a regular attendee at League of Ireland football matches since the 1970s. He has particularly supported Cork Hibs, Cork Celtic, Cork United, Cork City but has attended many other matches also.
He was formerly Webmaster of the Pitch and Putt Union of Ireland website (www.ppui.ie) to which he still contributes. He is currently Webmaster of the International Pitch and Putt Association website (www.fippa.org).
John broadcast Pitch and Putt on the airwaves from 1994 to 2005 – on CKR, KFM, KCLR FM, Midlands Radio 3, Radio Kerry and Cork 103 FM.
John held many administrative posts within the sport of Pitch and Putt
· Treasurer Pitch and Putt Union of Ireland 1992-93
· Public Relations Officer Pitch and Putt Union of Ireland 1994 – 2005
· General Secretary European Pitch and Putt Association 2000 - 2010
John Manning was the Editor of ‘Backspin’ – official monthly magazine of the Pitch and Putt Union of Ireland – between 1989 and 2005. He still currently contributes to ‘Backspin’.
He is a fervent supporter of the Republic of Ireland football team – home and sometimes away.
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