Iceland humiliated England last night, knocking them out of Euro 2016 following a 2-1 win. As a result, Roy Hodgson immediately announced his resignation from his post as England manager, and the enquiries into what went wrong have begun.
It all seemed to start so well. England avoided Portugal in the Round of 16, and would play minnows Iceland, 23 places below them in the world rankings. The England camp seemed focussed, confident and concentrated, and the world’s media firmly backed England to overwhelm an inferior Icelandic side. And last night, Daniel Sturridge’s curled ball through to Raheem Sterling set the City winger off, and he reached the ball before the keeper, getting hacked down by the Iceland goalie and winning a penalty. Rooney comfortably dispatched the spot-kick, and England had that early goal that everyone was talking about. Surely it was game over – surely England would crush Iceland.
34 seconds after kick off, a superb long throw from Aron Gunnarsson was flicked on, and Kyle Walker was nowhere as Ragnar Sigurdsson poked home past Joe Hart.
And 12 minutes later, Sigthorsson got on the end of a slick move to send a bobbling shot goalwards, and again Joe Hart, like he did against Wales, could only palm it into the net. It was 2-1 to Iceland, the ‘small’ team. But England had 70 minutes to get at least one goal. They prompted and probed but their movement was slow, they seemed lazy, tired and out of ideas at times. They didn’t get a goal, they were useless from set-pieces, they were dodgy at the back, and they lost – maybe the most humiliating defeat in England’s history.
So what went wrong? I have said from the start that Hodgson is not quite ‘with the times’ so to speak, and is not a modern day manager. Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Kyle Walker, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Rose, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, James Milner, Nathaniel Clyne – they all play for Tottenham, Leicester or Liverpool. 10 of the 23-man squad play for those teams – all with quick-moving, high-pressing, high-energy styles of play, but Hodgson’s philosophy is slow, low-tempo passing is old-fashioned and doesn’t work with his squad.
Maybe the selections were wrong. Raheem Sterling was picked a lot, as was Jack Wilshire, and they have had poor seasons. Or maybe the squad was discontent – disenchanted by Roy Hodgson’s methods. Perhaps the pressure of the occasion was too much for them. But one thing is for sure – the ability in the squad, and the form that they’ve been in all year long, shows that they have underachieved and the blame has to be pinned on Hodgson for not getting the best out of his players. He had to resign in the end.
And so what next? Following the biggest humiliation in recent England history, there is rebuilding to do, and a new boss – one with a modern philosophy, like Eddie Howe or Alan Pardew – must be brought in sooner rather than later. But we must face the facts – we have a team of young players with great potential, and unless something in the FA’s ideology and long-term plan is changed, on what we’ve seen so far, we won’t be able to extract the potential of this golden generation.
But the underlying message is clear.
For the country that invented football, this is unprecedentedly poor.