It can’t get any better than this for the underdogs Iceland as they prepare to tackle the might of England in the Euro 2016. This round of 16 fixture will be played at the Allianz Riviera on Monday, June 27.
England and Roy Hodgson decided to come to France with one of the youngest squads in an attempt to erase years of hurt in continental championships. Their only challenge for the group top position was expected to be from Wales whom they incidentally have beaten 2-1. This win was one of the talking points of the tournament with the English forwards proving that they can be dangerous when down. But the entire euphoria around that virtuoso performance has soon whittled down to anguish as a highly weakened England side could only draw with Slovakia. That meant that they had to finish second in the group and land the tougher side of the knockout draw. The poor form of Harry Kane is a talking point especially since he comes on the back of a scintillating season with Tottenham Hotspurs. The saving grace for Hodgson has been his captain Wayne Rooney who has slotted seamlessly into his deep lying midfield role and turned in fantastic performances in all the matches so far. But unfortunately they still lack the cutting edge in the final third which saw them spurn many chances.
Iceland who already created history as the smallest nation to ever qualify for the Euros, have taken their supporters to dream land with their performances so far. Counted as minnows in a group that had Hungary, Portugal and Austria, Iceland showed grit and determination to end with a no loss record that landed them an automatic qualifying berth. Not just in the Euros, they have been fantastic even in the qualifying defying odds game after game. With a simple game plan that is based on tying down the opponents with a tight system, Iceland would be backing themselves to do more of the same in the knockouts. Moving past England is definitely not beyond their abilities and on current form is a plausible result. The underdogs have already given enough reasons to cheer for their supporters and the neutrals but something tells that there is more to come from this side.
England have lost just once in their last nine encounters but grabbed two draws in the last three matches. Their goal less draw against Slovakia was the only occasion they failed to score a goal during this period.
Iceland have lost just once in their last six matches which includes an unbeaten run in the Euros so far. With a team that has a knack of scoring important goals, Iceland could be a difficult nut to crack for the English.
Key players and team news
Hodgson will welcome back all his top players after resting them against Slovakia. Harry Kane could be set for a spell on the sidelines unless Hodgson wants to place faith on the tired looking Tottenham forward. Rooney should once again be the focal point for England attacks.
Iceland will welcome Alfreo Finnbogason to the starting line-up after serving suspension. But his replacement Jon Bodvarsson had a good game against Austria – so don’t be surprised if Finnbogason will have to make do with a place on the bench.
England have scored at least a goal in all but one of their last eight games while Iceland have kept only two clean sheets in their last 14 games. On the other hand, England conceded in six of their previous eight games while Iceland have scored in all of their 12 previous games. This should make us believe that there could be goals from either sides in this encounter.
Seven of Iceland’s last ten encounters have ended in over 2.5 goals per match while England during the same period has seen five matches ending in over 2.5 goals. With both sides struggling with their forwards, there is a strong reason to believe that this will change and there could be a low scoring encounter.
The last encounter between these two sides saw England manage a 6-1 score way back in 2004 but so much has changed for Iceland since then. There are huge expectations that England will book their place in quarters but Iceland could end up surprising many people – again!
Iceland win or draw at odds of 2.5 with Betfred.