The world of football was sent reeling into chaos on Monday evening as Euro 2016 minnows Iceland unceremoniously dumped England out of tournament, marking yet another disastrous campaign for Three Lions manager Roy Hodgson and his backroom staff. Upsets in football happen more regularly than you might think, but few could argue that Iceland did not deserve their victory. Despite being awarded and converting a penalty just four minutes into the tie – England fell off the side of a cliff. What was about to unravel – starting just 70 seconds later – will forever be remembered in European Championship history.
Goals from Ragnar Sigurdsson & Kolbeinn Sigthorsson helped Iceland into a 2-1 lead that they never looked like giving up. Make no mistake, Iceland deserved to progress. Even as the game entered the latter stages, the underdogs were passing the ball the right way, looking to venture forward and score a third. They weren’t daunted by the supposed ‘plethora of talent’ that Hodgson fired at them. They outworked, out-passed, out-classed England in every department. However, they didn’t execute anything different from what they had deployed all through qualifying, making defeat for one of the tournament favourites even more shameful.
While the manner of England’s exit may surprise somewhat – the writing was on the wall early on. Worryingly, the man down the pub could see what was wrong with the whole setup. Hodgson had no plan, no tactics to deploy, no core of a squad that could progress through the finals. In fact, it’s utterly bizarre that he was allowed so much time in the job given his failures in management before taking the gig, and during it – most notably England’s pitiful 2014 World Cup campaign where they failed to even progress from the group stages.
The criticism of Hodgson and the whole England setup is entirely fair. For a man who received £14m in wages throughout his tenure as manager, he has nothing to show for it. An early exit from Euro 2012, a disgraceful World Cup campaign in 2014, and now the top it all off – elimination in the Last 16 by the smallest nation in the tournament.
Terrible Squad – Too Much Loyalty
Let’s just briefly break down the squad Roy Hodgson brought to France:
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Southampton), Joe Hart (Manchester City), Tom Heaton (Burnley)
Defenders: Ryan Betrand (Southampton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), John Stones (Everton), Kyle Walker (Tottenham)
Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
Let’s just have a look at the players in
Ross Barkley – Everton midfielder that had a pretty poor season at Goodison Park in what was a really disappointing campaign for the Toffees. His manager Roberto Martinez was also sacked just before the end of the season. Barkley – in my opinion at least – shouldn’t have been near that squad. What did he do to merit a seat on the plane?! OK, say there’s significant reason for him to be included, fair enough – but he didn’t get one minute on the pitch?! He didn’t get a run out. What was the point of bringing him when there was no intention of playing him? Even if thrown in against Iceland on Monday, he would have offered something different through the center, but no – persist with Rooney/Ali/Wilshere. Madness.
Adam Lallana – Should Lallana really be in that squad either when you have the likes of Andros Townsend raring to go after a fine individual end to the Premier League season? Questioning Lallana’s inclusion may be one of the harsher calls, but while undoubtedly skilful – he was anonymous in all of England’s matches. He doesn’t offer directness, pace, or much of a threat in front of goal either. A passenger in the England XI.
Raheem Sterling – The £50m man who barely played for his club all season and looks bereft of confidence. Why of course Roy Hodgson has to start him in all of his Euro 2016 games. Sterling made one contribution to the campaign by winning an early penalty against Iceland, but aside from that he was unbelievably poor – missing an absolute sitter against Wales in the groups too, if I remember correctly. Shouldn’t be near the starting eleven, if even the squad.
Jack Wilshere – This trumps all of the above. The injury plagued Arsenal midfielder was assured of his place in the Three Lions squad by Hodgson, despite barely kicking a ball all season. Way off match pace and lacking any real competitive experience in the last two seasons, Wilshere was given not only a spot on the plane, but the responsibility to go change the game against Iceland. He was shut down in midfield and could only loft useless balls into the Iceland box in the hope Jamie Vardy would race onto the end of it. How many nations bring an injury-prone midfielder who hasn’t played all season, especially when you have Danny Drinkwater and even Mark Noble sitting at home after fine domestic campaigns. Unbelievable.
Marcus Rashford – Should the 18 year-old really have travelled instead of Jermain Defoe, despite the Sunderland striker having bagged 15 goals in an average Premier League season for the North-East outfit? Talk about a hoping against hope from Hodgson and his coaching setup. Rashford had a great start to life in the Premier League, but at just 18 and no international experience, why bring him? Why give his 8 or 9 minutes against Iceland when in desperate need of a spark? The Manchester United striker brought urgency to the final few minutes of their Last 16 encounter, but he shouldn’t have been in the squad. Bring a pacy proven, experienced goalscorer like Jermain Defoe. Or even Andy Carroll – he offers something different, a real aerial threat. He may have made the difference in the dying stages.
Wayne Rooney – Well, well, well. Another pitiful year for the £300,000 a week captain. A poor season with his club, confusion over where his best position on the pitch is, but of course he starts?! In midfield?! Did convert his penalty against Iceland, but over the four games, he constantly slowed down any urgency in England’s play. A hindrance to the team – and didn’t nothing on a club level to merit a place in the squad to be honest.
England’s 2016 Failure – Created & Directed by Roy Hodgson
When you bring a squad like that to the European Championship – you aren’t going to go far. Easy to state that now, but so many of us said the same thing when Roy Hodgson announced his 23 man squad. He remained too loyal to players that have delivered nothing for him in the past 2 campaigns. He failed to find any real core of a team. Tactically he hadn’t an iota what to do.
It was all thrown together in the hope of something clicking and the warning signs were there after conceding late to Russia in the group opener. You reap what you sow – and deciding to stick with Wilshere, Sterling instead of bringing more deserving players from the Premier League has brought about just consequences.
The next manager of England has a massive job on his hands, but he knows that he cannot do quite as badly as Hodgson has. Anything will be an improvement for now on, but when all is said and done, Roy Hodgson and his backroom staff (Gary Neville, Ray Lewington) and those heartless players deserve every ounce of criticism they get from now until the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Words by Kevin Doocey. You can follow me/disagree with me on Twitter @KevinDoocey. Comments welcome, as always.