Iceland stuns England 2-1 to reach Euro 2016 quarter-finals

Iceland's players celebrate the team's goal with during Euro 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland, June 27, 2016 © AFP
Iceland produced a stunning result against England in the 2016 UEFA European Championship, winning 2-1 in their last-16 clash in Nice and setting up a quarter-final against the host-nation France.

Playing in their first major tournament finals, the Icelanders shocked England by coming from behind to claim a historic win.

Iceland’s population is around 330,000 – compared to over 53 million for England – but they defied their status as minnows to claim the most momentous victory in their history.

England took an early lead on four minutes through a Wayne Rooney penalty after Raheem Sterling was brought down in the box.

Iceland, however, evened the score less than 90 seconds later when Ragnar Sigurdsson – who plays club football for Russian side FC Krasnodar – swept in at the back post following a flick-on from a long throw.

They then sensationally took the lead on 18 minutes when Kolbeinn Sigthorsson found space on the edge of the box and got a shot away, which England goalkeeper Joe Hart could only parry weakly into his own net.

England had plenty of possession in the first half as they went in search of an equalizer, but the Iceland defense were rarely troubled and the closest England came was when Harry Kane had a powerful volley turned over the crossbar by Hannes Thor Halldorsson.

England manager Roy Hodgson brought on Jack Wilshere for Eric Dier at the break in the hope of injecting some pace into the England attack and introduced Leicester’s Jamie Vardy on 60 minutes and 18-year-old striker Marcus Rashford late on, but the moves failed to pay off as Iceland held firm.

Backed by the Viking chants of their fans, Iceland had chances to extend the lead in the second half, coming close through an acrobatic effort from Sigurdsson six yards out and when Aron Gunnarson broke forward in the 84th minute, only to see his shot saved by Hart.

Indeed, England looked devoid of any attacking ideas and failed to trouble an Iceland team that has defied its wildest expectations at Euro 2016.

Already a surprise package at the tournament following group-stage draws against Portugal and Hungary and a victory against Austria, Iceland will be in dreamland when they face France in the quarter-finals in Saint-Denis, just outside Paris, on Sunday evening.

The whole 23-man Icelandic squad cost less in transfer fees than Manchester City paid when it bought Raheem Sterling from Liverpool for almost £50 million, but Sterling and England’s other Premier League stars were humbled by an Iceland team that fully deserved its victory.

For England, the result caps what has been – with the exception of a last-minute win against Wales in the group stages – a miserable tournament, and manager Roy Hodgson announced he was resigning shortly after the game.

Iceland moves on to the quarter-final clash with France, confident of causing what could be another seismic upset.

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