England and Iceland meet in a Round of 16 clash that promises to be a thrilling encounter. While England have built up a reputation of being eliminated in the knockout stages of the competition, underdogs Iceland will be looking to stretch their dream run further and progress into the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.
The Euros are now in that stage of the tournament where England generally start to wobble. Besides the time they hosted the Euros back in 1996, they have failed to progress beyond the quarter-finals every time. After fielding a much-changed lineup against Slovakia, Roy Hodgson could be expected to return to his trusted starting XI that includes captain and Manchester United talisman Wayne Rooney.
Eidur Gudjohnsen recently admitted in an interview that his admiration for the Premier League is something that will not go away easily. This feeling is echoed by many fans from the sparsely populated country where the English top-tier is the most watched league. The twenty-seven thousand Iceland fans who have traveled to France to watch their national team will now have to keep that admiration aside for 90 minutes – possibly more.
Team news and tactics
Hodgson has a clean slate in terms of injuries and suspensions but his team selection is what has concerned many fans. It is doubtful whether Adam Lallana will start after he picked up a knock in training.
England will be expected to line up in a 4-3-3 formation. Eric Dier, who has been one of their most consistent performers, is almost certain to retain his place in the holding midfield role. Manchester United defender Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill from Chelsea are also among the sure-starters. Both Ryan Bertrand and Nathaniel Clyne did well against Slovakia but could be expected to lose out to Tottenham duo Danny Rose and Kyle Walker respectively.
England’s offensive lineup has been frequently changed and is therefore difficult to predict. Rooney should slot back into midfield while Dele Alli will assist him in attack. Liverpool man Daniel Sturridge, who looked ineffective in the last match, could still keep his place ahead of Raheem Sterling.
Ross Barkley, who hasn’t started a match in the tournament yet, could be a surprise inclusion on the right wing, occasionally drifting into a more central position behind the striker. Ahead of him, or along side him as the case may be, should be Harry Kane. The striker has not looked effective so far in the tournament but could be recalled to the starting XI owing to his strong hold-up play which could be the key to unlocking the Iceland defence.
Probable lineup (4-3-3): Hart (GK), Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose; Dier, Rooney, Alli; Sturridge, Kane, Barkley
Like their counterparts, they have their full squad to choose from and by all estimates, the starting XI should be the same which played in the thriller against Austria.
They have employed a 4-4-2 formation in the tournament so far and should continue the same for this match. Their unbeaten run now stretches to 4 matches (including a pre-tournament friendly). They like to defend in numbers and hope to catch their opponents on the break.
In Johan Berg Gudmundsson and Birkir Bjarnason, they have pacy wingers who could trouble a fragile looking England defence that hasn’t been tested much yet. The key player in midfield should be Aron Gunnarsson who will have the important job of keeping Rooney in check and help link up attack with defence for his team.
England’s struggle against the defensively well-organized team of Slovakia was evident which should inspire Iceland.
Probable line-up (4-4-2): Halldorsson (GK), Skulason, Sigurdsson, Arnason, Saevarsson; Bjarnason, Gylfi, Gunnarsson, Gudmundsson; Bodvarsson, Sigthorsson
Player to watch out for
Wayne Rooney (England)
In his new role as a midfielder, the Manchester United man has earned rave reviews for his adaptability. A key provider of passes in midfield and a link between attack and defence, he will be a marked man. Given his experience of playing in big matches for both club and country, the whole country will be counting on him to deliver.
- This is only these teams’ third ever meeting in history, the last one being in 2004.
- Iceland are the smallest nation (in terms of population) to ever qualify for a major tournament. The previous record was held by Jamaica.
- Had England beaten Slovakia, they wouldn’t have been on this side of the draw with Germany, Italy, Spain and France.
- The last time these two sides met, England thrashed Iceland 6-1 including a brace from Wayne Rooney.
England 1 – 0 Iceland
Given the quality of personnel on the pitch, the English should be able to break down the stubborn Icelanders defence eventually. Harry Kane could find his form again in an England shirt.