How can England become the first team to beat Iceland?

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England manager Roy Hodgson made six changes from the team that beat Wales in his final group game against Slovakia, and both teams duly ground out a 0-0 draw. Meanwhile, Gareth Bale inspired Wales to a 3-0 battering of Russia, meaning England were condemned to a second-place finish in their group.

On Wednesday, a last gasp winner for Iceland confirmed them as group runners-up, meaning that the minnows and European Championship debutants will face England in the last 16 when, for so long English fans everywhere had been preparing themselves for Cristiano Ronaldo and co.

So, how can England do what no team has so far managed to do, and beat Iceland?


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Team Selection

When Daniel Sturridge scored a last minute winner against the Welsh, it is safe to say the nation expected England to gain some much-needed momentum and go on to achieve big things in the tournament.

Alas, Roy had other plans and the six changes he made in the final group game against Slovakia backfired for a number of reasons, but perhaps most so because England are now in the same half of the draw as Germany, France, Spain and Italy.

The first thing Roy must do against Iceland on Monday is pick the team that beat Wales. With Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana up front, England have pace on both sides and through the middle, which is extremely necessary against a compact Iceland defence.

It also means that Raheem Sterling, a player desperately short of confidence, is no longer in the spotlight, and perhaps most importantly, not on the pitch. With glaring misses against Russia and Wales, both scorelines flattered the opposition much more than they should have.

Furthermore, Hodgson's trust in Jack Wilshere is misplaced, as the player is lacking match sharpness, having played only three games, and not in full, all season for Arsenal.

Starting XI: Joe Hart, Danny Rose, Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill, Kyle Walker, Eric Dier, Wayne Rooney, Dele Alli, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana.

Style of Play

Nobody can accuse England of not creating chances. If they had been more clinical, they could have topped the group comfortably, and then the final 0-0 draw would not have had such consequences.

England need to continue the way they are playing and keep on creating chances in the way that they are doing. Against Iceland that may be more difficult; the debutants have made a name for themselves, not only for defending in numbers and constricting the pitch, and thus the spaces for the centre-forwards, their midfield hound the opposition on the ball, meaning time for the attacking team is very much at a premium. With the composure of Wayne Rooney and Dele Alli in midfield, possession should not be a problem.

The Three Lions, however, may need to adapt themselves to play wide and cross it in, rather than play through the middle in the way that they are doing. That will stretch the Iceland defence, and perhaps open up some space for the attacking midfielders to have a shot or grab a goal on the rebound.

Understanding Iceland's Tactics

Iceland have, in all of their games, been extremely patient and hit the opposition with a deadly counter-attack. This usually comes as their opposition are throwing men forward, and Iceland will be particularly dangerous if they go ahead.

But, they can be effectively stopped, at a cost. If England keep at least one full back during each attack slightly deeper, an extra man defending should they lose the ball, could make all the difference, especially if it is someone with the pace of Kyle Walker or Danny Rose.

It will also require a little bit of game management, and playing Iceland at their own game - stopping counter attacks early at the cost of a yellow card.

Beating Iceland will be a harder task than most envisage, and with a place in the quarter-finals at stake, who knows what will happen...

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Wayne Rooney
Euro 2016
England Football
Premier League

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