England suffered their worst humiliation since they were knocked out of the 1950 World Cup by USA in Brazil as Iceland shocked them in the last 16 of Euro 2016.
Manager Roy Hodgson resigned after the abject embarrassment of losing to a nation ranked 34th in the world – and with a population of just 330,000 – despite taking the lead through Wayne Rooney’s fourth-minute penalty.
Iceland equalised within a minute as England failed to deal with a trademark long throw and Ragnar Sigurdsson bundled home from close range.
England’s shameful performance was summed up by Iceland’s 18th-minute winner when goalkeeper Joe Hart was badly at fault – just as in the win over Wales – as he let Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s shot through his hand.
Hodgson made changes as Iceland dug in, but the underdogs had as many chances as England before the final whistle blew on their Euro 2016 hopes and his four-year tenure as manager.
Is it all Hodgson’s fault?
The ultimate responsibility lies with the manager but, make no mistake, he was badly let down by players capable of so much better – not just on this black night for English sport but throughout Euro 2016.
Hart has had a nightmare tournament, young hopes such as Harry Kane and Dele Alli failed to live up to their performances last season, and captain Rooney, who had been England’s best player up until this game, chose this night to give one of his worst performances in an international.
England were shown up by the work-rate, desire and sheer physical commitment of their counterparts. Yes, Hodgson will take the blame and has paid the price but these highly paid Premier League players should not escape criticism.
A reputation scarred
Football Association chairman Greg Dyke had flagged up a quarter-final place as a minimum requirement, but Hodgson’s England could not even achieve that.
Hodgson’s thinking had been muddled even before England arrived in France, with constant changes of personnel and approach exemplified by the sudden re-introduction – and subsequent substitution – of Raheem Sterling, although the Manchester City forward did win the penalty from which Rooney scored.
|England managers’ records
As the game went on, Hodgson cut a detached figure, seemingly powerless to influence the game – and he waited too long to introduce the fearless pace and direct running of Marcus Rashford, who posed more problems in four minutes than most of those who had gone before.
Hodgson has never given off any sort of assurance during Euro 2016, unsure of his best team and strategy.
England have won one game out of four, with a last-minute winner from Daniel Sturridge against Wales – and this defeat will be a scar forever on Hodgson’s record and reputation.
England fans vent fury
England’s players slumped to the ground in despair and embarrassment when one final corner was wasted and Iceland had completed their landmark win.
It left them within range of the fury of England’s travelling support, who had gathered in their thousands as usual in Nice in the expectation of seeing them reach the last 16 of Euro 2016.
And they wasted no time in letting England’s players feel their full fury, frustration that had built up throughout the game exploding in anger directed at those who had failed to perform.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart held his hands up in apology to no avail as some supporters hurled England shirts and flags in the team’s direction.
When England left Brazil after their failure there in 2014, they were actually applauded at the end of a 0-0 draw in a dead rubber against Costa Rica – there was no such escape here as the supporters came to terms with one of the most embarrassing, painful nights in the history of English sport.
While England will begin to pick apart a wretched tournament, Iceland will go on to the quarter-finals and undoubtedly the biggest game in their history when they face hosts France at the Stade de France on Saturday.
Wales’ quarter-final against Belgium on Friday will be broadcast live on BBC One, with build-up starting at 19:30 BST.
The quarter-finals in full (all games start at 20:00 BST):
- Poland v Portugal in Marseille, Thursday
- Wales v Belgium in Lille, Friday
- Germany v Italy in Bordeaux, Saturday
- France v Iceland in Paris, Sunday
England goalkeeper Joe Hart: “As a group it is down to us. All the plans are put in place, we knew everything about Iceland – but ultimately we didn’t perform. Personally I didn’t perform.
“It’s not a question of wanting it, there’s nothing we want more – they are just words though. We were in a good place but we haven’t done it.
“We will get a lot of flak and we deserve it. We will learn from this and try and bring English football back to where it belongs. We have put it in a low place.
“We just couldn’t find a way back into the game. The next manager has a tough job on his hands. We worked hard but with no success. That is how this team will be remembered.”
England captain Wayne Rooney: “It’s a sad day for us.
“Sometimes not always the best team win. Once they got in the lead we knew it would be difficult to get the goal back because they are well organised.
“Going into the last 16 facing Iceland we were confident we could win the game. It’s disappointing but we have to move on.
“It’s tough. There are always upsets in football – it’s not tactics, it’s just unfortunate. We know we’re a good team.
“I can’t stand here and say exactly why it’s happened. Roy Hodgson will look back and think what he could have done differently.
“I’m still available to play. It’ll be interesting to see who comes in.”