So once again the curtain has fallen on another major competition for the three lions, more with a whimper than a roar. Should we have seen this coming? Perhaps, when a team manages to only win one game out of three in a group of Russia, Slovakia and Wales the alarm bells should have been loud and clear.
I think if we had been given a harder draw in the round of sixteen then we would have shouted those warning across the air waves so that everyone could lower their expectations. But we got Iceland. A country with no professional football league and some part-timers as coaches. So we all relaxed as Iceland snuck another goal in the ninety-fourth minute of their game against Austria and welcomed them into our slot on the wall charts.
I was watching the Ireland vs France match in an Irish pub the day before when Ireland were 1-0 up at half time. I heard lots of Irish fans excitedly saying ‘we’ll meet England in the next round if we win this.’ Iceland seemed to have become the forgotten team, they were supposed to buckle under the English might, and it started so well.
Raheem Sterling races onto an exquisite Sturridge pass and is immediately clattered to the floor by the Icelandic keeper. Penalty. Rooney. Goal. Four minutes in and we have an early goal. Now Iceland can’t sit back, they have to come and attack us and- oh it’s gone in… Less than ninety seconds and our early lead was wiped off the map. A simple throw in routine and Kyle Walker leaves Ragnar Sigurdsson to slot in a tap in. It was simple and predictable but yet England seemed to be too proud of themselves after going one up and thought they had the game in the bag.
So it’s 1-1, we’ve still got time to win the game, eighty-five minutes left to score. With a front line including two underperforming players: Sterling and Kane. Let’s start with Sterling.
Sterling has been consistent all season… By that I mean he’s been shit. Manchester City bought a player who for was seemed to be one of the rising talents in the English game but after just one season he’s disappointed for City. His dribbling now seems to be predictable and his shooting boots went out the window as he drove away from Anfield. So to say he deserved a place in the team was speculative at the least.
In the game against Iceland Sterling didn’t show any reason why he was given the starting spot. Roy Hodgson’s belief in him is baffling when he’s shown no quality in his play, from passing, to dribbling as well as shooting. His missed opportunity against Wales showed his lack of a finishing touch. I’m sure that Sterling will see get back to where he was under Brendan Rodgers but when that day will come? I’m not sure.
Harry Kane came into Euro 2016 with the world as his playground. He tipped himself to beat Wayne Rooney’s goal scoring tally for England some time in the future, and it was easy to see why he backed himself. He began scoring for his national side on his debut against Lithuania minutes after coming on as a substitute. The Tottenham player then won the golden boot with twenty-five goals in the Premier League this season. However, this Euro campaign has been a flat one. No goals and an almost anonymous showing in each match means the striker will go home with a downward gaze as England fans look for a villain.
So after five minutes we’re all square until a brilliant passing move by Iceland against an extremely static England defence and the ball hits Joe Hart’s hand and goes in. De ja vu anyone? For the second time in the same tournament Joe Hart fails to save a shot that he gets a hand to. A poor tournament for another England player.
So it’s 2-1 but England have time to bring it back. Now begins the most painful England performance in recent memory. Slovakia showed us that we struggle against a side that doesn’t let us just let us walk the ball in, so we ran out of ideas. Side-ways pass to side-ways pass as the England players wait for someone else to so something. The second half was miserable with the only highlight being Marcus Rashford’s introduction, and subsequent best English performance from just five minutes of play. Harry’s Kane’s free kicks were also a highlight as we guessed how poor his shots would be. I decided to bet one of my friends £100 that he would miss one of his infamous free-kicks. I kept my money.
Roy Hodgson has now resigned as England coach as well as his back-room staff including Gary Neville. His written message to the press says it all, I’m sure he wrote it the night before the match just after he’d tucked Sterling and Wilshire in to bed and knew he wasn’t confident in his ability to beat Iceland.
Gareth Southgate looks the most likely to succeed Roy and I say good luck to him, I’m sure he will do a great job getting us kicked out of the world cup and collecting his huge pay packet in doing so, because that is the job of a modern England manager.