England vs Iceland Preview: Underdogs face toughest challenge yet

The Three Lions face the Nordic nation in the last 16 of Euro 2016 at the Stade de Nice in Nice. Will the favourites progress, or will one of the tournament's surprise packages frustrate Roy Hodgson's side, thus progressing to the last eight?

England vs Iceland Preview: Underdogs face toughest challenge yet
(Photo: VAVEL UK)

Following their surprisingly impressive group campaign, Iceland are set to face England in the last 16 of Euro 2016 as they attempt to increase the magnitude of the history they've made in this tournament so far.

England, however, made tough pickings of a fairly unchallenging group, qualifying in second place behind Wales

Battle of two unbeaten sides

Both sides progressed from their groups in second place with five points following one win and two draws to each of their names. Nonetheless, the reaction of each nations' fans to their country's progress is completely contrasting.

The small nation of Iceland is avidly following its country's progress in their first major tournament and they've gone from strength to strength as each game has passed. The highlight of their tournament so far was a last gasp winner in a 2-1 victory against Austria from substitute Arnór Traustason, sealing qualification from a very competitive group. 

They have impressed so much so in this tournament that, despite being classed as major underdogs by the media, England head coach Roy Hodgson has claimed that Iceland are not a side to take lightly. He proved that recently by sending a five-man scouting team to the Nordic country's first victory in a major tournament against Austria.

One man the majority of the England side will be wary of is Iceland's key player Gylfi Sigurðsson. Having played against many of the England squad in arguably his best Premier League season to date, Hodgson's team will be more than familiar with his technical talent. Judging from England's recent selections, it may will be the job of Tottenham Hotspur duo Eric Dier and Dele Alli to minimise Sigurðsson's influence on the game. 

Dele Alli will be tasked with taming Gylfi Sigurdsson on Monday. (Photo: Tony Marshall/Getty Images)
Dele Alli will be tasked with taming Gylfi Sigurdsson on Monday. (Photo: Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

England may struggle against solid Iceland defense

With the heavy expectations of an unforgiving nation resting on their shoulders, this is a must-win game for England. With a favourable draw and a talented and experienced squad to add, we should expect to see England in Euro 2016's quarter-finals. Nevertheless, as football has exhibited to the world over the past year, underdogs are finding success through playing to their strengths.

Unfortunately for England, Iceland's strength has proved to be the weak point in the Three Lions' play during the group stages. Having struggled to defeat two offensively-cautious teams in Russia and Slovakia, and just edging a win against Wales having dominated possession all game, England have had their lack of creativity majorly exposed. 

Many claimed that Hodgson's team selections in the opening two games were to blame, however a different line-up full of fresh faces failed to inspire his side to three points against Slovakia - who were comfortably beaten by Germany 3-0 in their last 16 round tie - in a goalless draw. This leaves the England fans pondering over who should, and who will, start in one of their biggest games in recent years.

This England side definitely has the capability to be the first to progress past the quarter-finals since the squad of Euro '96. It's now up to them to perform at the standard many hold them to.

Team news

Neither team have any injuries or suspensions to their name coming into this fixture.

However, Iceland will be pleased to have striker Alfred Finnbogason back in their squad after he served his one-match ban against Austria. 

Predicted England XIHart; Walker, Smalling, Cahill, Rose; Dier, Alli, Rooney, Lallana; Kane, Sturridge.

Predicted Iceland XI: Halldórsson; Sigurðsson, Árnason, Saevarsson, Skúlason; Guðmundsson, Gunnarsson, Sigurðsson, Bjarnason; Böðvarsson, Sigþórsson.