England vs Iceland – Euro 2016 Match Preview

Nick Basannavar
Senior England team correspondent

Nothing that has happened since last week’s arid 0-0 draw with Slovakia should make Roy Hodgson or his England team feel too much better about themselves.  

Germany have just made embarrassingly light work of the same opponents: 3-0, with almost everything to spare, against a team that managed to hold England at arm’s length. 

Many English apologists pointed to Slovakia’s 3-1 friendly win in Augsburg before the tournament as a means of justifying last week’s goalless draw. ‘Slovakia are no mugs’, they said. ‘They turned Germany over in their own back yard.’

Give over. Even England won a friendly in Germany this year.

Part of Germany’s enormous recent success is that they are ready when it matters – and not when a meaningless international game or qualifier suggests differently.

England have their work cut out so as not to prove the unfortunate opposite to this rule. A perfect qualifying record? Tick. Encouraging friendly wins in the build up? Tick. Yet once again a flat start to a major tournament.

Nonetheless, even an Iceland team riding on a volcanic wave should be overcome relatively comfortably. If not, we can ready ourselves for a second ignominious European exit in the space of four days. 

There are no more half measures now. Roy Hodgson simply has to get his selection and his team’s performance right.

No more whingeing about dominating games. No more talk of possession statistics or efforts at goal. Only a convincing result will do.

England fans are tired of hearing that reaching the knockout stages of major tournaments is enough of an achievement. Not when they have the richest league – and second tier – in European football. Not when they finally have a row of forwards seemingly able to score a hatful of goals, and the best group of young players in a generation. 

There can be no doubt that England have made great strides since Euro 2012 and Brazil 2014. To see an England team playing the ball with such authority and technique is a rare sight. 

Yet there are caveats to this. One is that all of England’s opponents so far have been more than happy to let them have the ball. When Spain or Germany come knocking, do we really expect Eric Dier to complete more than 100 successful passes? 

The other is that having the ball is harmless unless you can put it in the net.

Thanks largely to Hodgson’s meddling last week, England lie on the wrong side of the draw. France are – just about – safely through, lying in wait in a Paris quarter final with confidence growing.

There have been big words from Hodgson and Gary Cahill, warning future opponents that a big win is just around the corner. It simply has to come on Monday night. 

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Gadsby's England EURO 2016 Podcast -- Last 16 Preview AVAILABLE NOW

There's no Brexit on the football pitch, thank you very much. It's another Gadsby's England Euro 2016 Special as we reach the business end of the tournament. Gadsby and Carlos preview a last 16 with the fantastic achievement of all the home nations voting to REMAIN, and Ireland playing hosts France. 
Will England be able to melt down the boys from Iceland in the heat of the Côte d'Azur? And what about this: Northern Ireland or Wales will be in the quarterfinal of the European Championships. Dreamland. Gadsby and Carlos discuss which of the two it's likely to be. And Ireland's grudge match against the French, a chance to avenge THAT handball in the World Cup qualifying playoff in 2009. It's going to be a mouthwatering weekend and Gadsby's England will be there throughout. 

Available now:


This show is dedicated to the memory of 
Grigor Spasov Iliev
a great friend of Carlos, who very sadly passed away in Sofia earlier this week.

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VIDEO PODCAST: Gadsby and Carlos on the 0-0 draw with Slovakia, and where England go from here

Let's delve and dissect then. Gadsby and Carlos look back on #‎England's desperately disappointing night in St. Etienne. Oh, and this will be in SIX parts, as a nod to Henry VIII's wives, the six of the best Gadsby used to get at school (regularly), and a certain manager's obsession with SIX. That's right, Mr. #‎Hodgson, you and the number SIX seem to have become one.

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Part Five:

Part Six:

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It's another video podcast, and Carlos finally appears -- but who's that in the background, and where are they from?


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Latest podcast available

You can't say you don't have it good. Video-casts, poignant articles and now another podcast with the wisdom of Carlos and the attempted wit of Gadsby! Where else would you want to be during Euro 2016 (other than in the stadium watching England,  in front of a TV watching England, round your grandma's, painting the house... Anyway...)?

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Gadsby and Gadsby Jr look forward to the Battle of Britain: England vs Wales

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Gadsby and Gadsby Jr on the disturbing off-pitch events in Marseille

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Euro 2016 podcast: Gadsby and Gadsby Jr on England 1:1 Russia

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England vs Russia Match Report: a sucker punch on the pitch, pitched battles off it

Nick Basannavar,
Senior England correspondent
in Marseilles

England 1-1 Russia
Stade Velodrome, Marseille, 11 June 2016

In the end, the action on the pitch matched the tone of the entire, disastrous English visit to Marseille. Vasili Berezutski’s late, undeserved equaliser seemed to crush the spirit of the England players, several of whom lay strewn on the pitch at the full-time whistle. 

Above them, away behind Joe Hart’s sloppily defended goal, Russian fans chased through inadequate French barricades to push back thousands of English fans – children included – who were forced to leap from the stands to (relative) safety. 

Later, the Marseille night continued to brood, with supporters murmuring darkly of machete-wielding, black-clad Russians slashing indiscriminately along boulevards, of incidents on metro trains, and of people fighting for life in hospital. 

Before kick-off, within the inspiring curves of the new Velodrome, the trouble of the preceding days and hours seemed forgotten as English fans basked with humour and optimism in the start of another major tournament appearance – not thinking of the wretched record England have accumulated in opening games down the years. 

‘Don’t take me home/ please don’t take me home/ I just don’t want to go to work…’ seems to have become the lament of choice for the English supporters – along with variations on ‘Will Grigg’s on Fire’. The former was lustily, boozily sung throughout.

But the truth is that those supporters will be going home relatively soon unless their team can grow out of some unwelcome naivety, particularly given the calibre of their next opponent’s number 11.

The first half had been almost entirely positive – with the huge caveat that it was goalless. England attacked with verve and incision, cutting through Russia’s lines with the assistance of superb full-back performances from Danny Rose and Kyle Walker. Unfortunately the finishing touch was lacking, particularly from Adam Lallana who spurned two excellent chances. 

Wayne Rooney and Eric Dier formed a well-rounded midfield duo. Although Roy Hodgson’s choice to experiment with Rooney deep in midfield seemed perplexing given that he has never played the role for England before, any doubts were dispelled by a wonderful display of passing and skill – something like an ersatz Pirlo-Scholes blend. 

He broke forward, Scholes-esque, to threaten with efforts from the edge of the box in either half, bringing out one good and one rub-your-eyes save from Igor Akinfeev, who excelled in the Russian goal.

Hard to believe: England were entertaining, short-passing and intelligent in those opening 45 minutes – attributes that supporters have been demanding for years.

But an England team is still an England team. No matter the style of play, the typical mental frailties endure. Having turned around at 0-0, England appeared tentative at the start of the second half, a dismal Russian side making some ground if not any clear opportunities.

Akinfeev’s wonder save apart, Russia were relatively untroubled until Dier stepped up, 20 minutes from time, and spanked a free-kick into the goalkeeper’s top corner. It said much about the way the second half was going that the primary instinct amongst supporters was relief. 

Then came a baffling move, Hodgson replacing General Rooney with Wilshere. The latter was all buzzing movement and heel-snapping energy, but as soon as Rooney went off, an element of control was ceded.

It also felt wasteful that Jamie Vardy was made to linger on the bench for the whole game when his supernatural running ability and threat would have been the perfect sucker-punch to Russia’s increasingly concerted probing. In the end, James Milner was brought on for the hugely disappointing Raheem Sterling to shore up the side, but the ploy failed. 

Hart will have to take his share of responsibility for the poor positioning that enabled Beruzutski’s header to creep in, particularly considering the context of an eccentric performance. In the first half he smashed an attempted clearance, under no pressure, straight against Chris Smalling and was lucky that it rebounded straight to him, whilst there was time after Russia’s equaliser for a brainless jink well outside of his goal that almost wreaked further damage.  

When the dust has settled – literally – on this opening encounter, England can face the rest of the tournament with optimism, but also reality. One doubts that Germany, France or Spain would have so laboured the point against such limited opponents. 

England are slow starters. Frustrating, maybe, but that’s the way it is. The key is not to decelerate from here. This young side showed enough to suggest that they can dispense with Wales and Slovakia. Now they have to go and do it. 
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England vs Russia: any kind of victory

Nick Basannavar
England team correspondent
in Marseille

If England are to salvage anything from a so-far insalubrious visit to Marseille, with its backdrop of flares, flying bottles and teargas, they will have to do something an England team has never done before: win their opening game at a European Championships.

In truth the general atmosphere in the city, a few hours before kick-off, is not quite as dark as is being made out in the UK press, although one does wonder what it is about international football tournaments that creates such a fondness for plastic chairs in grown men. Some of the videos doing the rounds have shown seating being thrown at police, at locals, at buildings – at anything that moves, and lots that doesn't. The plastic chair, as in 1998, seems to be the first recourse of the English football fan in Marseille: accessible, solid of form, and moving with conviction through the sultry air.

Roy Hodgson will be hoping his team can take flight in a similar way in Euro 2016, although early indications suggest that this will have to be done without the much-discussed Jamie Vardy.

One would be surprised if recent transfer business – some may say cynically instigated by a patriotic Arsène Wenger – has not got inside Vardy’s head, considering the long stretches of time players at the tournament spend alone with only their thoughts.

Either way, it doesn’t seem that there is a place for the jet-heeled forward tonight, given Hodgson’s complete trust in Rooney and Kane and the way that the three-forward experiment faltered so badly against Portugal.

England looked immediately improved in that game when Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana came on as substitutes to inject some trickery, pace and width into the team, and it would be a major surprise if neither of them start tonight.

What is a good outcome for England? Simply, any kind of victory – particularly given the side’s miserable history of opening fixtures. But it won’t be an easy task against an improving, proficient Russian side. Game on.
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