Mark O’Haire’s Euro Tips – England v Iceland
England will face Iceland in Nice, with a place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 the reward for the winners.
England v Iceland, Monday 27th June 2016 (20.00), ITV1 & RTE Two
Both teams picked up five points from their three matches at the group stages, but the mood in the two camps could barely provide more of a contrast ahead of Monday’s meeting.
Daniel Sturridge’s last-gasp winner against Wales had put the Three Lions firmly in the driving seat in Group B, but Roy Hodgson made a raft of changes for their final group game against Slovakia.
Hodgson’s gamble backfired as Wales romped to a 3-0 win against Russia, while England slipped up against the Slovaks, with a goalless draw meaning that the Dragons pipped the Three Lions to top spot in their section.
It seemed certain that England would face a last-16 tussle with Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, but Iceland had other ideas as they snatched second place in Group F in the most dramatic fashion.
Arnor Ingvi Traustason slid home the winning goal for his country in the dying seconds of their match against Austria – writing his name into the history books as the first man to bag a winning goal for Iceland at a major tournament.
England are warm favourites to take their place in the quarter-finals, but Hodgson’s side will need to be more clinical if they are to advance in the competition, for the Three Lions have paid a price for being unable to convert their chances in each of their previous three matches.
With five strikers named in Hodgson’s final 23-man squad for France, it seemed inconceivable that the Three Lions would struggle to score goals, but England managed just three at the group stage despite firing in 65 shots – 46 more than their opponents.
Wayne Rooney scored twice in a 6-1 win for England the last time that these two nations locked horns, but that meeting came 12 years ago, and it is safe to suggest that Iceland will be able to give a much better account of themselves this time around.
The England captain, rested against Slovakia, is almost certain to be restored to the starting line-up for the match in Nice, but Hodgson must decide who will spearhead his side’s attack against Iceland.
Harry Kane led the line for England against Russia, but the Spurs striker was hooked at half-time against Wales and the 22-year-old forward may have dropped down the pecking order, given that both Sturridge and Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy found the net against Chris Coleman’s charges, while both men started against Slovakia.
Iceland, with a population akin to Leicester, will dream of pulling off a shock in this competition that would be as seismic as the Foxes’ Premier League title triumph, and the “never-say-die” attitude of Lars Lagerback and Heimer Hallgrimsson’s side has won them admirers throughout the tournament.
Swansea City’s Gylfi Sigurdsson is a familiar face to fans of English football.
The 26-year-midfielder’s prowess from dead-ball situations will be considered as the main threat to Hodgson’s team, but England must be alive to the counter-attacking qualities that Iceland possess.
Iceland have found the net in each of their last nine matches and, buoyed by their remarkable win against Austria last time out, will come into this match believing that they can cause an upset.
Given the vast resources available to Hodgson, England should prove to be too strong, but the determined minnows can frustrate the Three Lions in Nice and patience may be the key to success for England in Nice.
Hodgson’s side have failed to score a goal in the first-half in any of their last four matches and…
the 21/20 (2.05) quote for most of the scoring to come in the second-half offers good value for punters ahead of Monday’s match.
Just don’t put all your eggs in the England basket. The nation are unbeaten in their last 10 games at the European Championships (W5-D5-L0) but since 1980 England have never won an away knockout tie in this competition, being eliminated on penalties in six of their eight finals knockout defeats since 1990.
Second-half to be the highest scoring (21/20)
*Prices correct at time of publication.