Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Only Iceland believed in a miracle while England flops fell to new low

Published 28/06/2016

Iceland supporters celebrate their team's 2-1 win after the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Iceland supporters celebrate their team's 2-1 win after the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Iceland's midfielder Aron Gunnarsson and team mates celebrate after the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. Iceland won the match 1-2. / AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOISBERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's midfielder Aron Gunnarsson and team mates celebrate after the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. Iceland won the match 1-2. / AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOISBERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's midfielder Aron Gunnarsson and team mates celebrate after the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. Iceland won the match 1-2. / AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOISBERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's midfielder Aron Gunnarsson and team mates celebrate after the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. Iceland won the match 1-2. / AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOISBERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson (centre) leads the Iceland celebrations on the pitch after the Round of 16 match at Stade de Nice, Nice, France. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission of #543367594 with alternate crop.) Iceland players celebrate while England players show dejection after the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
A young England fans reacts after England lost 2-1 to Iceland in the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Gary Cahill of England shows his dejection after his team's 1-2 defeat in the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Iceland supporters celebrate their team's 2-1 win in the EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Wayne Rooney shows his frustration on the bench after being replaced during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Harry Kane of England takes a free kick during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
England's goalkeeper Joe Hart reacts during the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOISBERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images
England's goalkeeper Joe Hart reacts during the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOISBERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's forward Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (L) celebrates after scoring Iceland's second goal during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Paul ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's forward Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (L) vies for the ball against England's defender Danny Rose during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Daniel Sturridge of England and Ari Skulason of Iceland compete for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
England's midfielder Raheem Sterling plays the ball during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
England's goalkeeper Joe Hart reacts during the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOISBERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's goalkeeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson (L) eyes the ball with England's midfielder Dele Alli during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's goalkeeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson (L) grabs the ball from England's midfielder Dele Alli during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson (L) vies for the ball against England's midfielder Jack Wilshere during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Jamie Vardy of England reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Wayne Rooney of England shows his frustration on the bench after being replaced during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Jack Wilshire of England stands on the touchline during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Iceland fans cheer during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland fans cheer during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland fans cheer during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's goalkeeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson reacts during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland fans cheer during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
(LtoR) England's forward Wayne Rooney and Iceland's midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson vie for the ball during the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOISBERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's defender Ragnar Sigurdsson kicks the ball during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's midfielder Aron Gunnarsson throws the ball in during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Harry Kane of England reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Iceland's forward Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and England's defender Chris Smalling (top) vie for the ball during the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOISBERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland supporters in the stands during the Round of 16 match at Stade de Nice, Nice, France. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Harry Kane of England reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Jon Dadi Bodvarsson of Iceland and Chris Smalling of England compete for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
England's defender Chris Smalling (L) vies for the ball against Iceland's forward Kolbeinn Sigthorsson during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
(LtoR) England's forward Wayne Rooney and Iceland's midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson vie for the ball during the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOISBERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's defender Ragnar Sigurdsson (L) and England's forward Jamie Vardy vie for the ball during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULATANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Harry Kane (C) of England reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Aron Gunnarsson of Iceland and Jack Wilshire of England compete for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Daniel Sturridge of England and Ari Skulason of Iceland compete for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Iceland's defender Ragnar Sigurdsson (L) and England's forward Jamie Vardy vie for the ball during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULATANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's forward Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (L) vies for the ball against England's defender Chris Smalling during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
(LtoR) Iceland's forward Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and England's defender Chris Smalling vie for the ball during the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
England manager Roy Hodgson looks dejected on the touchline during the Round of 16 match at Stade de Nice, Nice, France. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
England's midfielder Jack Wilshere (R) and Iceland's forward Kolbeinn Sigthorsson vie for the ball during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULATANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's defender Ari Skulason (L) vies for the ball against England's defender Kyle Walker during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
England manager Roy Hodgson looks dejected on the touchline during the Round of 16 match at Stade de Nice, Nice, France. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
England's midfielder Raheem (L) Sterling reacts during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Jamie Vardy of England reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Harry Kane of England reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
(LtoR) England's midfielder Dele Alli and Iceland's defender Kari Arnason vie for the ball during the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's defender Ari Skulason (R) and England's forward Daniel Sturridge vie for the ball during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULATANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
England's defender Chris Smalling (R) and Iceland's forward Kolbeinn Sigthorsson vie for the ball during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULATANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Dele Alli (C) of England competes for the ball against Aron Gunnarsson (L) and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (R) of Iceland during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Iceland's midfielder Birkir Bjarnason (L) and England's defender Kyle Walker vie for the ball during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULATANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Wayne Rooney of England shakes hands with Roy Hodgson manager of England after being replaced during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Gudmundur Hreidarsson looks on prior to the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
England manager Roy Hodgson looks dejected on the touchline during the Round of 16 match at Stade de Nice, Nice, France. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Gudmundur Hreidarsson Iceland coach looks on prior to the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Gudmundur Hreidarsson Iceland coach looks on prior to the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
England's forward Jamie Vardy (top) and Iceland's defender Ragnar Sigurdsson vie for the ball during the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
England's forward Jamie Vardy (top) and Iceland's defender Ragnar Sigurdsson vie for the ball during the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
England manager Roy Hodgson looks dejected on the touchline during the Round of 16 match at Stade de Nice, Nice, France. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
England's defender Kyle Walker (C) and Iceland's midfielder Birkir Bjarnason (R) vie for the ball during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULATANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
Slovenian referee Damir Skomina gives a yelow card against Iceland's midfielder Aron Gunnarsson (R) as Iceland's defender Kari Arnason (C) looks on during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's midfielder Aron Gunnarsson reacts during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
Iceland's forward Johann Berg Gudmundsson plays the ball during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULATANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Gylfi Sigurdsson of Iceland and Harry Kane of England compete for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
England's coach Roy Hodgson reacts during Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images

It barely ever grows dark in Reykjavik at this time of year but for Iceland this was their longest, greatest day. On the final whistle the players and staff of this remarkable team streamed towards the thousands of Icelandic fans who had come to the Riviera in expectation of at best an honourable defeat. What they got was beyond their wildest fantasies.

Just ten minutes after the final whistle the stadium was empty save for their fans and the soft lilt of their national anthem was drifting into the night air.

What mattered was that this team believed they could do it and that is the precious quality their manager, Lars Lagerback, had instilled. They had, after all, beaten the Netherlands home and away in qualification and they knew what it was to protect a lead.

Lagerback had famously never lost to England and you could sense in his voice during the pre-match press conference that he expected that sequence to end. It was not even close to a draw.

This was the greatest match in the history of Icelandic football, probably Icelandic sport.

Nobody connected with England, not their fans, their players, the backroom staff or the travelling media remotely expected what would unfold on the Cote d'Azur.

Iceland was one of the few nations to have welcomed Brexit with their president, Olafur Grimsson, commenting that Britain should look north to a trading bloc that would include Iceland, Norway, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. It might not have been Paris, Barcelona and Rome but these days we, like our footballers, are living in reduced circumstances.

On a night that would have distilled every nightmare he had ever woken from as a football manager, Roy Hodgson woefully underestimated these footballers. Against Austria, Iceland had scored a very similar goal to Ragnar Sigurdsson's opener that was triggered by a long throw. When Aron Gunnarsson delivered a long ball into Joe Hart's area, his defenders reacted as if they were astonished Iceland's captain should have attempted something so straightforward.

Iceland did not, like Slovakia had done in St Etienne, attempt to pack their defence and eke out a goalless draw. If they had planned to do so, Wayne Rooney's early penalty forced them into attack although Iceland could never have known how soft an underbelly they would be attacking.

However, it was the way Iceland defended that was astonishing. Gylfi Sigurdsson, perhaps the one player available to Halgrimsson and Lagerback who might have merited consideration for Hodgson's side, blocked attack after attack. Ragnar Sigurdsson, having scored the goal of the game, made the tackle of the game to dispossess Jamie Vardy when he looked as if he might score. He departed an exhausted hero, the stuff of sagas.

At the end, they were applauded off by the England fans and now France and the quarter-finals await. If 10 per cent of the Icelandic population had left to be with their team, the island will be empty when their team walk out in the Stade de France. They will always have Paris.

Belfast Telegraph

Read More