Roy Hodgson’s men are heading home after Iceland, the smallest nation ever to grace a major tournament, inflicted one of the most humiliating defeats in English football history.
Having arrived at Euro 2016 among the favourites, falling at the last-16 hurdle to a country the size of Leicester ranks alongside the 1950 World Cup exit to the United States in the embarrassment stakes.
It was a result few could argue with after a cumbersome, uninspiring and ragged England display at the Stade de Nice, where Iceland secured a deserved 2-1 win thanks to a ruthlessness the Three Lions could only dream of.
The greatest day in the tiny Nordic island’s footballing history means it is now surely a case of when rather than if manager Hodgson leaves, with the dearth of options to replace him as demoralising as this display on the French Riviera.
Wayne Rooney’s penalty gave England a dream start after four minutes, but from that point they were largely outfought, outbattled and outplayed.
PENALTY GOAL Wayne Rooney // England 1 – 0 Iceland // EURO 2016 // 27 06 2016
Ragnar Sigurdsson all too easily lost Kyle Walker from Aron Gunnarsson’s mammoth throw to level within two minutes and things got worse when a Kolbeinn Sigthorsson effort trickled home after Joe Hart’s pathetic attempt at a save.
GOAL Ragnar Sigurdsson // England 1 – 1 Iceland // EURO 2016 // 27 06 2016
GOAL Kolbeinn Sigthorsson // England 1 – 2 Iceland // EURO 2016 // 27 06 2016
Wayward finishing, stern defending and poor passing meant England were unable to find a response as Iceland deservedly set up a remarkable quarter-final with hosts France.As for England, bowing out to Iceland will leave a hangover that will prove hard to shake, with fans chanting, “You’re not fit to wear the shirt” at the final whistle.Few could have foreseen such an ending given the way England flew out of the blocks, with Daniel Sturridge’s strike after 92 seconds followed up by a goal inside four minutes.The Liverpool frontman’s fine ball over the top found the much-maligned Raheem Sterling, whose pace flummoxed Hannes Halldorsson and led to a penalty.
Referee Damir Skomina had no hesitation pointing to the spot and Rooney struck home confidently, firing low to the Iceland goalkeeper’s right – a dream start that lasted mere minutes.
The enormous throw of captain Gunnarsson may have been highlighted by Hodgson but caught his side out, with Kari Arnason’s flicked header allowing the unmarked Ragnar Sigurdsson to direct home.
Walker, so impressive in the group stage, was horribly caught out by the centre-back, who turned home to send those in blue wild.
Dele Alli came close with an exceptional strike as England looked to strike back, with Harry Kane next to try his luck before being caught by another preventable blow.
Jon Dadi Bodvarsson turned a Gylfi Sigurdsson pass into the path of Sigthorsson, whose touch gave him enough space to get away a right-footed shot that Hart somehow failed to turn around the post.
Those in white watched on in stunned silence as the ball trickled over the line, with the limp-wristed attempt at a save leading to as much shock as anger.
It threw England off-kilter and it took several minutes to regain an iota of composure, with Halldorsson tipping over Kane’s superb volley when they next attacked.
Rooney tried his luck from distance after Ari Skulason went close with an audacious left-footed strike at the other end as those on the pitch reflected the tension in the stand.
Chris Smalling’s header went wide and a Sturridge cross-shot threatened before the half-time whistle, which England greeted with hearty and deserved boos.
Jack Wilshere, surprisingly, replaced Eric Dier when the teams re-emerged as Hodgson looked to find an equaliser, with a powerful Kane header easily stopped soon after the restart.
Another poorly defended set-piece nearly saw Iceland pull further ahead 10 minutes into the second half, though, with Hart fortunate that Ragnar Sigurdsson’s close-range overhead was straight at him.
However, there were few signs of life from England as Alli and Wilshere failed from distance in-between the introduction of Jamie Vardy.
The Leicester striker was denied an early effort on goal by Ragnar Sigurdsson’s wonderful tracking back, with Rooney jeered when over hitting a cross from the resulting corner.
Birkir Saevarsson’s threatening drive and skipper Gunnarsson’s near-post drive threatened to make things worse as England left themselves exposed at the back, with Arnason heading wide from a corner.
The inability of Hodgson’s men to break through Iceland’s well-drilled side led to the gamble of Marcus Rashford being brought on.
Arnason got back well to clear in stoppage time but it was too little, too late. England were out and deservedly so – the most crushing and embarrassing circumstances.