England exited Euro 2016 with a whimper as they were beaten 2-1 by rank outsiders Iceland in the round of 16 in Nice – one of the most embarrassing defeats in their history.
The Three Lions got off to the perfect start when Wayne Rooney put them ahead early on from the penalty spot, but an almost instant equaliser from Ragnar Sigurdsson drew Iceland, a country with the a population of 330,000, level before Kolbeinn Sigthorsson netted the winner following a howler by Joe Hart, to set up a quarter-final tie against the hosts, France.
England manager Roy Hodgson made six changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Slovakia, with Danny Rose, Kyle Walker, Rooney, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane coming in for Ryan Bertrand, Nathaniel Clyne, Jordan Henderson, Jack Wilshere, Adam Lallana and Jamie Vardy.
Meanwhile, Iceland named the same starting XI for the fourth successive match at this tournament, meaning 37-year-old Eidur Gudjohnsen, who played for a number of Premier League sides, including Chelsea, Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur, omce again started on the substitutes’ bench.
England had their first effort at goal in the second minute, with some neat link-up play between Alli and Sturridge ending in a shot that was dragged wide by the latter.
In the fourth minute, the Three Lions had their lead after Sterling was brought down in the box by Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson following a brilliant ball over the top from Sturridge.
England captain Wayne Rooney stepped up and sent his spot-kick beyond Halldorsson, to send the English fans into raptures.
However, 38 seconds after the resulting kick-off, their supporters were silenced as Iceland drew level.
Cardiff City Aron Gunnarsson launched a long throw into the penalty area, Kari Arnason won the flick on and the unmarked Ragnar Sigurdsson volleyed past Joe Hart from six yards.
On the quarter-hour mark, Alli went close to regaining the lead for England, but his 25-yard half-volley flew inches over the crossbar, while Kane also shot over from a similar distacnce.
In the 19th minute, Iceland incredibly took the lead, and it was via a mistake by Hart.
After some intricate passing play, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson hit a low shot from the edge of the area, and despite getting a firm hand to it, Hart couldn’t prevent the ball crossing the line.
Kane then went close to finding an equaliser for a shell-shocked England, but his well-struck volley from 18 yards was tipped over for a corner by Halldorsson.
Iceland went close from long range when Ari Skulason hit a swerving half-volley from outside the penalty area, but it went a couple of yards wide of Hart’s right-hand post.
Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson both had long-range efforts before the break, but there was to be no further goals before the interval, as England went in behind.
Iceland had the first real opportunity 10 minutes into the second half, with Ragnar Sigurdsson, a centre-back, nearly getting his second of the match in stunning fashion, but his bicycle kick from six yards was straight at Hart, who knew little about it.
Despite needing a goal, England chances were few and far between, with Alli slicing Sturridge’s cross from the right over the bar, while Kane hit a 30-yard free-kick well wide of the right upright.
Charlton midfielder Johann Berg Gudmundsson then hit a left-footed shot just over the bar, while Gunnarsson’s shot was well parried away by Hart, as England went out with a whimper.
Man of the Match: Ragnar Sigurdsson (Iceland)
The Icelandic centre-back scored his nation’s opening goal just minutes after England had taken the lead, before going close with a fantastic acrobatic effort in the second half. Sigurdsson would have been expecting a busy evening pre-match, but it was anything but and he was relatively comfortable throughout, keeping the England forward line quiet.
What’s Next? Iceland will face the hosts France in quarter-finals in the Stade de France on Saturday, while England will start the inquest of one of the most disappointing defeats in their history.