Iceland reaches Euro 2016 quarterfinals
Goals from Sigurdsson and Sigthorsson
England manager says he is quitting
Iceland to play France in last eight
Iceland pulled off one of the most astonishing results in the history of European football on Monday, knocking England out of the Euro 2016 finals.
Playing at its first major international tournament, Iceland came from behind to win 2-1 in Nice and set up a quarterfinal tie against host nation France.
This victory, without doubt the most important in the country’s history, not only inflicted humiliation on England but also underlined Iceland’s reputation as a growing force in world football.
“This is without a doubt the biggest result in Icelandic football history,” defender Kari Arnason told reporters. We’ve shocked the world.
“We kept our composure and defended well. We all believed, the rest of the world didn’t but we did. I am overcome with joy.”
For a country of 330,000, qualifying for the tournament was an achievement — but the success of this team has surpassed the nation’s wildest dreams.
Led by the experienced Lars Lagerback and part-time dentist Heimir Hallgrimsson, Iceland has endeared itself to the watching world.
England, home of the world’s richest league, was woeful. In a week where Great Britain voted to leave the European Union, England was sent packing from Euro 2016 in embarrassing fashion.
And it was the end of manager Roy Hodgson’s tenure – he confirmed after the game he wouldn’t be seeking to extend his contract and take the team for its 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
But make no mistake, this was no fluke. Trailing to Wayne Rooney’s early penalty, Iceland fought back bravely as Ragnar Sigurdsson equalized almost immediately and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson scored what turned out to be the winner before 20 minutes had been played.
Iceland, which finished second in Group F after winning one and drawing two of its games, was rarely troubled by a hugely disappointing England side which had been expected to progress with the minimum of fuss.
For all the Premier League riches at its disposal, England was anemic for large periods, struggling to make five-yard passes and prone to having its defensive frailties exposed each time Iceland moved forward.
This was arguably England’s most humbling defeat since the 1950 World Cup, where it was beaten by the U.S. in Belo Horizonte.
Rarely did it look capable of finding a way back into a contest against a team from the smallest nation to ever compete at the competition.
And yet, for England, it had all started so well. Raheem Sterling, restored to the team on the left of the attack, was brought down inside the penalty area by goalkeeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson.
Wayne Rooney stood up to take the kick and fired the ball into the corner in just the fourth minute.
England must have thought an early goal would knock the confidence out of an Iceland side which lacked experience in tournament football.
Those thoughts were soon laid to rest – 34 seconds later in fact – as Ragnar Sigurdsson fired home from close-range after Kari Arnason had nodded Aron Gunnarsson’s long throw into the penalty area.
Shocked by conceding, England’s players began to lose their discipline with passes going astray and Iceland able to break into space left behind the midfield.
And with 18 minutes of the contest played, Iceland took full advantage when Nantes forward Sigthorsson broke towards the penalty area and fired an effort which somehow squirmed under Joe Hart’s arm.
For Hart, it was a second high-profile error after his mistake allowed Gareth Bale’s free-kick to beat him during England’s 2-1 win over Wales at the group stage.
England, which had never previously managed to win a knockout game at the European Championship finals, looked panicked as the game became more and more frantic.
Harry Kane’s volley was touched over the crossbar by Halldorsson as England looked for a way back into the contest before halftime.
Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere was brought on for Eric Dier at the interval as England adopted a more attacking approach, but it was Iceland which came within inches of finding the next goal when Ragnar Sigurdsson’s overhead kick was blocked by Hart.
England continued to dominate possession but it failed to create anything of note. In fact, only a fine save from Hart prevented Gunnarsson from firing Iceland further ahead as he broke into the penalty area late on.
By the end, England had Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford in attack but failed to muster a shot on target.
Iceland, roared on by their supporters, stood firm, repelling each attack which came its way.
The game moved into three minutes of stoppage time with the blue shirts being forced deeper and deeper.
But the blue line held firm, Iceland stood tall and when it mattered most, it delivered.
France has been warned – Iceland is ready to make more history.