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England in the pits after Iceland fiasco

28 June 2016, 16:28

Paris - England were at one of their lowest points on Tuesday after Iceland's battlers dumped them out of Euro 2016, coach Roy Hodgson quit, and the abject failure added to the national sense of post-Brexit turmoil.

Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson claimed their place in sporting history with the goals on Monday that secured a 2-1 win in Nice for the smallest nation ever to play in a major tournament.

Wayne Rooney gave a full-strength England the perfect start with a fourth minute penalty, but Hodgson's men rapidly ran out of ideas and energy against a nation ranked 34th in the world.

"Clueless. Utterly clueless," said The Times newspaper.

Goalkeeper Joe Hart, who let the second Iceland goal squirm under his fingers, said the humiliation had left English football "in a low place".

"We will get a lot of flak and we deserve it," said the Manchester City stopper.

A shellshocked Hodgson read out a statement announcing his resignation straight after the game - the performance was "obviously not acceptable" and "now is the time for someone else to oversee the progress of this young, hungry and extremely talented group of players", he said.

The 68-year-old departed without answering a single question, but his critics filled the vacuum after England crashed out prematurely again just two years after exiting the World Cup in Brazil at the group stage under his tutelage.

Many asked how Jamie Vardy, whose 24 goals helped Leicester win the Premier League last season, Tottenham's Harry Kane, who netted 25 league goals, and Liverpool's often lethal Daniel Sturridge had failed to find the net when it mattered most.

Former England striker Alan Shearer said it was "the worst performance I have seen from an England team".

Another ex-international forward, Gary Lineker, tweeted that England, with a population of 53 million and the world's wealthiest league, had been beaten "by a country with more volcanoes than professional footballers".

England Under-21 coach Gareth Southgate was the early favourite to replace Hodgson.

But Southgate comes with baggage on the international stage - as a player he missed the crucial spot kick against Germany when England last reached the semi-finals of a major tournament at Euro '96.

Shearer called for a double act of Southgate and Glenn Hoddle, who as coach oversaw another England failure at the 1998 World Cup.

The Daily Mail compared the Iceland defeat to England's 1-0 loss to a part-time United States side at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil and to the British referendum vote last week to leave the European Union.

"A lot of people in England have been trying to turn back time over the last few days -- and Roy Hodgson managed to get it all the way back to Belo Horizonte in 1950," mused the Mail.

"Not since a distant World Cup, 66 years ago, have England suffered a humiliation as great as this."

England's neighbours in the United Kingdom also enjoyed their discomfort -- an online video showed Wales' players celebrating wildly. Unlike England, Wales, spearheaded by Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, can look forward to a quarter-final against Belgium on Friday.

Iceland meanwhile were celebrating pulling off one of the biggest shocks in football history and have a date with host nation France on Sunday after reaching the last eight in their first ever participation in the Euros.

Captain Aron Gunnarsson, who plays for Cardiff in the English league, said the country of 330,000 people had been turned "upside down".

"It's just a proud moment and something we'll treasure for the rest of our lives," he said.

"We always believe. That's our attitude."

Asta Helgadottir, a deputy in the Icelandic parliament for the Pirate Party, tweeted: "This was the real Brexit."

As the England team prepared to slip out of France in disgrace, it was difficult for many to agree with Rooney's insistence that better things were ahead.

"As players we appreciate what Roy has done for us. He's given a lot of players their debuts for England. You can't forget that. It's hard to see it now, but the future is bright."

Spain's reign as European champions also came to an end on Monday as Italy clinically ended the challenge of the two-time defending champions 2-0.

Inspired by Chelsea-bound coach Antonio Conte, Italy's triumph ended a 22-year run without a win over Spain. They face world champions Germany next on Saturday in Bordeaux.

Coach Vicente del Bosque insisted the loss did not spell the end of a gloriously successful period for a Spain side that won two Euros and a World Cup between 2008 and 2012.

"I don't think an era has ended. Spanish football is very well structured - there are good academies, very good players and very good clubs," the veteran coach said.



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