We’re going to start this by talking about how impressive Iceland has been in this tournament. The only thing that should still be contributing to any type of “underdog” label is simply their country’s size and their lack of history at past tournaments. As Iceland moves on, they will be dangerous for any team that lines up against them. Every other remaining team will have quite a large amount of pressure riding on them and on their players. Iceland, however, has been playing with house money since before they even qualified…and that freedom will only increase as they go on. If there’s still a neutral fan watching the Euros, then they certainly have a team to root for at this point. Iceland might not have won over many hearts in Mighty Ducks 2, but they’re a lovable squad at the Euros.
Now, on to something that should surprise few, yet it shocked the world: England’s exit.
For the mere concept of keeping this under 10,000 words, we won’t spend too long on the fact that this kind of result is starting to run in England’s blood. If you aren’t familiar with the history of the Three Lions, it’s fairly simple to encapsulate. Always packed with talent, always capable of beating any team, but never fulfilling potential…it’s a long and frustrating story. This tournament merely adds another sick twist, and continues the narrative of disappointment.
The first issue that anyone should have had with this England team for years is Roy Hodgson. You’re looking at a manager that was good for keeping relegation fodder afloat. Still, he somehow stumbled into the Liverpool job after proving he was fairly good at being mediocre. Then, after putting Liverpool through the worst winning percentage in over fifteen years, Hodgson somehow seemed to be a good choice for the biggest job in England. Still, he spent a season continuing his mediocre results at West Brom before he was given the job officially.
How does a guy whose BEST winning percentage with English clubs was 41% become the biggest manager in the land? And, if reports are to be believed, was also the only candidate even approached? If you’ve ever heard the phrase “failing up,” then this might be the biggest case ever. Of managers that have been at the helm for more than 40 games, Hodgson had the 3rd worst winning percentage ever.
This was a massive mistake. Hodgson’s resignation should be seen as a definite positive to come from the last few days.
The second massive issue was the selection that Hodgson made, not only for the squad, but for the players he chose on match day. Raheem Sterling had looked poor all tournament, but he was played against Iceland. Wayne Rooney hasn’t looked like himself for almost half a decade, and he has rarely been one to show up when England are playing important matches. Factor in a bunch of unproven youth, the ridiculous notion to bring along Jack Wilshere, and a host of other questionable thoughts…and this team seemed built for failure. It isn’t great to have history working against you, but it’s even worse when it can combine with a faulty present.
We aren’t even going to hash over the 90 minutes, because (once again) nobody is surprised. The stage simply wasn’t built for them. All the pressure during the match: squarely with the Three Lions. All the expectations during the match: solely with the England squad. Leading up to any future tournaments, it seems like this squad will need just as much mental work as on-field work. This situation is starting to seep into all the players, to the point where you have to wonder if any of them truly have a legitimate belief that England can win at a major level.
For fans here in the U.S., it’s easy to roll on from a 4th-place Copa exit with our heads held high. We aren’t expected to beat the best and our history gives us no reason to expect parades after a major tournament. However, England has no such luxury. They continuously have a quality group of players, a massive level of support, and the ability to succeed. This loss is going to sting for quite some time, and the relief won’t come until an English captain finally raises a trophy up into the air. Sadly, there’s not a chance in the world that anyone will truly expect them to make that happen any time soon…