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Aron Gunnarsson
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Euros Classic Moments: Iceland humiliate England in Nice

27th June 2016 provided one of the biggest shocks in international football history as England were humbled by Iceland in Nice.

For England, it was a defeat that ranked alongside their shock elimination from the 1950 World Cup at the hands of USA in Belo Horizonte.

It was a performance that bordered on embarrassment as the abject nature of their display signalled the end of Roy Hodgson’s reign in charge of his country.

A nation boasting a population of just 330,000 people sent shockwaves throughout Europe and progressed to the quarter-finals at England’s expense.

England labour through group 

Both sides progressed to the Round of 16 with unbeaten records and five points from their three group games.

England were lacklustre against Russia in their opening game, as Vasiliy Berezutski’s injury-time equaliser cancelled out Eric Dier’s free-kick.

The next game pitted the Three Lions against Wales and England were second best in a first-half that saw Gareth Bale’s long-range free-kick creep past Joe Hart to give Wales a shock lead.

Booed off at the interval and with England’s place in the tournament on the line, Hodgson introduced Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge from the bench and his roll of the dice paid off.

Vardy equalised before the hour and Sturridge grabbed a dramatic winner in injury time to spark wild celebrations in Lens.

England then got the necessary point against Slovakia to progress to the knockout stage but any momentum they had from the Wales game was lost. England were poor once again and Wales’ victory over Russia meant that Hodgson’s side went through in second place.

Iceland tournament bow starts well

Ranked 34th in the world, this was Iceland’s first ever appearance at a major tournament.

The managerial duo of Heimir Hallgrimsson and former Sweden boss Lars Lagerback had some talent at their disposal, with the likes of Johann Gudmundsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Arun Gunnarsson having experience in England.

But it was a tall order to expect much from a nation who were new to all of this, even if a group containing Austria, Hungary and Portugal did offer opportunities to pick up points.

Iceland, backed by vociferous support, took on one of the tournament favourites Portugal in their opening game. 

It was on this night in Saint Etienne that the ‘Thunderclap’ made its tournament entrance, as thousands of supporters were synchronised in their approach to provide a deafening backdrop to the action on the pitch.

It was a memorable night for Iceland as Birkir Bjarnason’s second-half goal gave Iceland a precious point after Nani had given Portugal a first-half advantage.

Four days later, Iceland had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Hungary following a Birkir Saevarsson own-goal two minutes from time, which set up a pivotal clash with Austria where Iceland needed a point to progress.

The Austria game gave Iceland their first ever tournament victory, as Arnor Traustason scored a 94th minute winner to give his side a 2-1 win and all three points. 

Portugal could only muster a draw with Hungary and Iceland were through in second place, with eventual winners Portugal scraping through as one of the best ranked third-placed teams.

Iceland shock Europe; horror show for England

A quarter-final place was seen as a minimum requirement by Football Association chairman Greg Dyke ahead of Euro 2016, and only Iceland stood in England’s way of that objective. 

England had not performed well during the group stage. Joe Hart looked shaky in goal, Harry Kane and Dele Alli were struggling to replicate their club form and Raheem Sterling was not a popular figure amongst England supporters.

Yet this was surely a time to kick on and blow away the cobwebs ahead of sterner tests.

All appeared well early on when England’s captain Wayne Rooney netted from the penalty spot in the fourth minute.

But what followed was an immediate capitulation that England simply never recovered from.

Ragnar Sigurdsson bundled home after England failed to defend a long-throw just two minutes later, before Hart made another error as Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s shot squirmed under his left-hand in the 18th minute.

Even Steve McClaren on punditry duty couldn’t comprehend what he was seeing as Iceland's second interrupted his praise of England’s reaction to the equaliser.

He may not have had an umbrella with him, but the similarities were otherwise there as Hodgson was set to join McClaren in overseeing an unfathomably bad night for England.

Iceland were full of vigour, exceptionally hard working off the ball and committed to the cause. 

But not only did they outwork England, they also outplayed their more illustrious opponents at times.

A shell-shocked England were desperately short of ideas going forward; they were woefully out of form and extremely low on confidence.

Even the pace of Marcus Rashford, which England were crying out for, was only unleashed with four minutes to go.

Hodgson cut a lonely figure on the bench as his and England’s fate were known well before the final whistle.

Iceland held on to their greatest ever victory and England were out.

Hodgson bids farewell; Iceland take on France

It came as no surprise when Hodgson resigned immediately after the match.

After failing to make it through the group stage at the World Cup in Brazil two years earlier, this was make or break for the England boss. Defeat to Iceland made his job untenable.

Pundits described it as the worst England display of all-time, former players launched rants against some of the current crop and journalists gave ratings of zero out of 10 in their match reports.

It was a mess and the search for Hodgson’s successor started straight away.

For Iceland, they went into the unchartered territory of a European Championship quarter-final.

Hosts and tournament favourites France were up next for a group of players who had already over-achieved and established hero status in their home country.

The last-eight clash proved a step too far, however, as they were 4-0 down at half-time, with France going on to complete a 5-2 victory.

Iceland wenthome but their tournament will be forever remembered for their Round of 16 tie in Nice.

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