Game of the Day: England vs. Iceland, Nice, 20:00
The round of 16 may have been a mixed bag so far, but there are lessons to be learned for England ahead of a potential banana skin against Iceland in Nice on Monday evening.
Teams seem to be tiring in the heat, but instead of trying to wear Iceland out over the course of the 90 minutes, Rooney et al would be best served going against the grain of the tournament to date and starting fast. If England can do something they haven’t managed so far and get an early goal, they will surely make life much easier for themselves and have a better chance of tying up the result without the need for extra time.
France await the winner and although their second half performance meant they deserved to go through, Ireland looked heavy-legged even before going down to ten men, when the gaps opened up for Griezmann and Payet to exploit. The French will be without N’Golo Kante for the quarter final and Adil Rami’s suspension could mean Eliaquim Mangala is added to a defence that already looked fairly shaky against the Irish. England must not be dreaming of the Stade de France yet though, and butterflies are sure to flutter each time Gylfi Sigurdsson lines up a free-kick.
Iceland are through on merit and can be dangerous and stubborn opponents. England will need to move the ball at pace and fully utilise Kyle Walker and Danny Rose if they are to find any space. Hopefully close attention was paid to Germany’s exemplary display in how to pull apart a stubborn Slovakian defence on Sunday evening. England’s much derided final ball will also need to be up to scratch to put some pressure on Halldórsson, (who has been a somewhat erratic presence) in the Iceland goal. It seems likely that Harry Kane will start, which is perhaps understandable when facing against a team that will sit back, but expect to see Jamie Vardy sooner rather than later if things aren’t working out.
Hodgson has been criticised for sight-seeing in Paris with Ray Lewington, (oh to be a fly on the wall for that trip) rather than scouting the opposition, but it would appear positive that the team and management are calm at this stage of the championships. Much was made of the austere regime at Rustenberg under Fabio Capello in 2010 but results and hindsight will dictate whether Roy was right or wrong to take things easy and enjoy the trip.
Andrew Grillo, The Sweeper Football Blog