Euro 2016: Yet another English exit, what went wrong for Hodgson and Co?

Gary Cahill and Joe Hart are completely floored after England's capitulation in the round of 16. Both had failed to cover themselves in glory against Iceland, as a slew of defensive errors contributed to their exit.
Gary Cahill and Joe Hart are completely floored after England's capitulation in the round of 16. Both had failed to cover themselves in glory against Iceland, as a slew of defensive errors contributed to their exit.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Hodgson's tenure ends on low as England are unceremoniously dumped out by tiny Iceland

NICE - Pack away the flags. Put the song sheet down. After two strangulated, hysterical weeks in France, it really is time to go home.

It was not just England's tournament that ended at the Stade de Nice with this stunning last-16 2-1 defeat by Iceland, a nation the size of Lewisham, a London borough.

At the final whistle, a wider full stop arrived with Roy Hodgson's resignation after four years in the job, capped at the last by one of the great English sporting failures.

Hodgson had to go. And he duly went, handing in his blazer and badge with a brief statement.

There is an element of sadness to every ending, even one as hapless as this.

England were not just beaten. At times it felt as though they were being dragged backwards through time as the game produced a hard-running, long-passing game that would not have looked out of place in the old first division of hoofs, mixers and knockdowns.

THE BOTTOM LINE

I am pragmatic and I know we are in the results business.

ROY HODGSON, ex-England manager, upon stepping down after the Three Lions' last-16 defeat by Iceland.

Outplayed but also outmanoeuvred on the details, there were so many painful points. Want a window into why England fail? Perhaps we should start with arrogance and entitlement.

England's scouting staff had confidently punched the air when Iceland scored at the end against Austria, ensuring Iceland would be their next opponents.

Sadly the sense of causal prep extended to Hodgson, who went on a boat trip up the Seine with assistant Ray Lewington rather than watch Iceland play in the flesh.

Ray, you see, had never seen Paris. Perhaps in time Roy's boat ride will find itself enshrined alongside Steve McClaren's umbrella, Kevin Keegan's toilet, Sven's psychedelic fake-sheikh yacht ride among the anguish-laden friezes of the England managerial death vault.

Iceland do not deserve to be lumped in as a function of England's humiliation. They were by far the better team on the evening. Although it was still fitting it should be them.

This is a nation with arguably the world's best youth coaching set-up, football's greatest first-world overachievers, a place where nothing is wasted, only reproduced.

Iceland has one Uefa B licence coach for every 825th member of the population. In England, that number swells to one per 11,000.

From the moment the late evening heat settled a little heavier before kick-off there was a genuine twang of tension around this steeply-banked bowl.

Not for Iceland, for whom this is a genuine first-step-on-the-moon moment of sporting history. But for England's lost and frantic players, who seemed to disintegrate a little as the night wore on.

At least England did not show the same weaknesses as in the group stage, when the old habits of losing the ball, and playing too quickly were replaced by a sickly imitation of possession football, all lateral trudge and hopeful pot shots.

Instead, England showed other, more urgent weaknesses. Pressed by a team they were assured would sit back, Hodgson's defence was exposed. Too much space for a cross, too easily cut open. They were outmuscled at times and simply outplayed with Gylfi Sigurdsson the best midfielder on the pitch.

The most gruesomely poignant moment of Hodgson's farewell arrived after England had taken an early lead via Wayne Rooney's penalty. Moments later they were undone by the most wonderfully English Iceland equaliser from Ragnar Sigurdsson.

Not only did England fail to defend a long throw, they looked fretful, unable to assert their qualities, or show any leadership or drive.

They were again stationary as Iceland took the lead, this time through Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.

Players came and went, as they have through this four-game campaign, a shuffling of non-specific parts into non-specific roles.

So many of England's footballers seem oddly generic, lacking in the extreme, identifiable qualities that define their own role. In France, Hodgson has fiddled around with them the way you might a set of matching cards.

He made bad decisions. And his stubbornness was partly why this absurdity was still happening.

At least Hodgson had the courtesy to step down even though, well, he "would have loved to stay on for another two years".

"However, I am pragmatic and I know we are in the results business," said the 68-year-old.

"My contract was always up after the Euros, so now is the time for someone else to oversee the progress of this young, hungry and talented group of players."

And for now the end of Hodgson's England, so staid at times, will linger as a genuinely rare and refined humiliation.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


What went wrong for England?

1. LACK OF A GAME PLAN

It was difficult to figure out what was going through Roy Hodgson's mind during the campaign.

He did not seem to know his best starting XI, at one point making six changes to his line-up against Slovakia. On top of that, it was never a good time to experiment - putting Harry Kane on corners against Russia, playing Wayne Rooney deep in midfield.

England lacked cohesion all over the pitch under Hodgson and it cost them in the last 16.

2. POOR FINISHING

England have a formidable strike force that contributed 70 Premier League goals last season - Kane and Jamie Vardy the top two scorers with 25 and 24 goals respectively.

In France, they managed to score only three goals in four games. Their attacking shortcomings have been the subject of debate since the stalemate with Slovakia.

Despite 29 attempts, they could not find the goal that would have taken them through as Group B winners and prevented them from falling into the more difficult half of the draw.

3. VULNERABLE DEFENCE

England's defence was highlighted as a weak point even before the tournament and it proved to be true.

Defensive errors allowed Russia to equalise in the last minute, and also helped Iceland draw level at 1-1 just two minutes after going behind.

The backline also struggled against Hal Robson-Kanu of Wales, and were also left open far too easily for Iceland's winning goal.

4. HART'S STRUGGLES

Out of just five shots on target England conceded throughout the group stage and the last-16 clash with Iceland, Joe Hart let in four.

Two major errors from the goalkeeper revealed his vulnerability. The first was when he was beaten by Gareth Bale's free kick from 35 metres. The second was against Iceland when he allowed Kolbeinn Sigthorsson's shot to creep over his line.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2016, with the headline 'Yet another English exit'. Print Edition | Subscribe