I’m sure England’s ignominious exit from Euro 2016 will have sent writers and reporters scurrying for the thesaurus to try and find the adjective that accurately describes last night’s performance and result.
Ignominious is quite a good start… abject… humiliating… disgraceful… feeble… hopeless… clueless… spineless… they’re all perfectly valid; or how about predictable?
How a manager can go through a ten-game qualifying tournament and pre-competition friendlies yet still have no idea what is his best line-up is beyond me. Likewise, how can players that earn tens of thousands of pounds a week not have the craft to unlock the defence of a country ranked 34 in the world (they were no.112 just six years ago)?
Iceland were so well drilled and so committed that their victory was totally deserved and by the time of Marcus Rashford’s ridiculously delayed introduction, England’s ability to complete even the game’s most basic skills had deserted them.
Tens of thousands of pounds a week….
Let’s not forget Iceland had already taken a point from Portugal—a result Cristiano Ronaldo accepted with his customary good grace—as well as dispatching the Austrians courtesy of a last-minute winner that sparked huge celebrations on the pitch, in the stand… and also up in the commentary box, courtesy of the gloriously over-excited Gudmundur Benediktsson.
Last night in Nice, Iceland proved (as had Leicester City in the world’s richest football league) that money and success do not always go hand in hand. Iceland, like the Foxes, had courage, determination, togetherness and belief in abundance; and roared on by their amazing supporters, they were brilliant to a man.
Roy Hodgson’s departure was inevitable… and it may be the end of the international road for a number of “senior” players as well, but whatever inquest follows this latest English debacle, let’s raise a glass to the “Arctic Foxes” of Iceland because they were fantastic.
Interestingly, over at SW19, an Englishman called Marcus Willis reached the second round of Wimbledon with a straight sets victory over Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania. Apart from a certain Scot, it is rare for any British tennis player to progress past the opening round, so this was a notable effort from the 25 year-old.
Actually, forget notable… it was almost incredible. Willis was ranked no.772 in the world and had come through six rounds of qualifying for the right to face someone just outside the top fifty. Until yesterday, his earnings for 2016 had amounted to roughly £220… the sort of money a “top” footballer could make in the time it takes to eat a bowl of cereal. His reward is a guaranteed £50,000 and the chance to face Roger Federer….
Congratulations young man. It’s an uplifting story… perhaps Messrs Rooney, Hart, Sterling et al should take note?!