England’s European humiliation is complete. Iceland shocked them, upset the betting odds and showed the Three Lions to be little more than Pussycats in Nice on the same day that Italy dethroned Spain as Kings of the Continent.
The nadir felt after the Brexit vote has proved to be only a trap door for English fans, one opened by the minnows of the competition, so-called “plucky underdogs” Iceland whose Euro 2016 victory has sent a soul-searching and divided nation spiralling further into despair and discombobulation.
Italy meanwhile forced the “experts” who labelled them the weakest squad in the country’s history to eat their words as Antonio Conte’s men showed what simple organisation, planning and belief can achieve to end Spain’s reign as European Champions.
ENGLAND 1 ICELAND 2
England were clear favourites to progress to a quarter final showdown with France and defeat was as unexpected on betting exchanges and gambling websites as the Brexit vote was for the financial markets.
Skipper Wayne Rooney gave them the perfect start on five minutes from the penalty spot but within 90 seconds the sides were level when Rangnar Sigurdsson bundled home. England ‘keeper Joe Hart’s disastrous fumble let in Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s 18th minute strike proved to be the winner
Roy Hodgson’s men fell apart in the second half. Technique, poise, control, determination, belief, composure? They all disappeared as England chased the game and the Premier League’s top names and top earners, the stars of the so-called “Best League in the World” simply withered in the Nice night against an Iceland XI who continued to threaten to heap on the humiliation and add to their lead.
Breaking News: England have just gone out of the 2018 World Cup. pic.twitter.com/RhfvstvhVK
— Michael Di Paola (@MichaelDiPaola) June 27, 2016
HODGSON RESIGNATION – A TALE OF TWO MANAGERS
Hodgson resigned within minutes of the final whistle – the manager reading from a prepared statement which clearly showed some of the focus of his preparation was preparing for the inevitable knockout. The lack of belief and confidence from the man leading the team had permeated through his players.
Would Italy’s boss Antonio Conte have prepared such a statement before their Spain game, or indeed at any point during Euro 2016?
ITALY 2 SPAIN 0
Italy sent 2010 World Cup winners and reigning back-to-back European Champions Spain packing from Euro 2016 with a tactical master class by Conte to set up a mouth watering QF clash with Germany.
The Azurri took control from the first whistle, pinning Spain back with a potent threat that would have scored far more than Giorgio Chiellini (33 minutes) and Grazio Pelle’s (90+1) strikes but for a brilliant display from Spain’s ‘keeper David de Gea.
La Roja boss Vincente del Bosque is out of contract and though Spain are nowhere near the depths England are pitifully mining, a change is needed to revitalise a clearly aged and weary squad if they are to climb the same heights again.
EURO 2016 QUARTER FINALS LINE-UP – ALL KICK OFFS 8pm (BST)
Thursday 30 June
Poland v Portugal
Friday 1 July
Wales v Belgium
Saturday 2 July
Germany v Italy
Sunday 3 July
France v Iceland
The semi finals follow on Wednesday and Thursday (July 6 and 7) with the final on Sunday 10 July – who do the top online football tipsters think will be there?
By Joe Cahal