Roy Hodgson must go if England bow out of Euro 2016 against Iceland

Defeat to Iceland will see the end of the head coach's four-year stint

Roy Hodgson must go if England bow out of Euro 2016 against Iceland
Image: Getty images

England face arguably their biggest match in over a decade when they play Iceland in the Euro 2016 last 16.

A win is expected against the smallest nation currently still in the competition, but the Three Lions will know it will be a tough game against a spirited side who finished second in Group F ahead of Portugal and Austria.

However, with reaching the quarter-final regarded as the minimum tournament expectation, a defeat for England would surely spell the end of Roy Hodgson’s time in charge of the national team.  

Tournament performances have overshadowed good qualifying campaigns

Not quite meeting expectations has been a key theme throughout Hodgson’s four years as head coach. Despite a thoroughly successful Euro 2016 qualification campaign which saw England win all ten games, it’s the big stage where they have failed to perform.

Euro 2012 was certainly the most convincing of Hodgson’s three major tournaments so far, although England were defeated by Italy on penalties in the quarter-final following a 0-0 stalemate. However, the severely under-par performance at the 2014 FIFA World Cup will always overshadow anything positive that Hodgson achieves, with the British press calling for him to step down after the torrid experience in Brazil.

A slightly inexperienced squad travelled to the World Cup, but England had no excuses for finishing bottom of Group D with just a point to show for their very weak efforts. Defeats to Italy and a Luis Suarez-inspired Uruguay meant England were already mathematically unable to qualify for the knockout round by the time they faced Costa Rica in the final game – a 0-0 draw lacking in great quality.

Hodgson’s job was spared on the basis that England would win Euro 2016 qualifying Group E, and they did so with ease, but the quality of the opposition England had to face was largely very poor. Lithuania, Estonia and San Marino were easily beaten by big margins, Slovenia caused a slight scare on their own turf, with England needing Jack Wilshere to bail them out, while group runners-up Switzerland were defeated twice by 2-0 score lines.

Winning any group with a one hundred per-cent record at international level should certainly not be underestimated. England were undefeated since their horror show in Brazil heading into their pre-Euro 2016 friendlies, but Spain soon put an end to that record – dispatching the Three Lions 2-0 in the first friendly after the qualification campaign. 

A magnificent 2-0 win over France followed, but the result was overshadowed by the horrific terrorist attacks in the French capital, Paris. Young and exciting midfielder Dele Alli announced his arrival on the international stage that night, scoring a tremendous goal from from 25 yards, while Wayne Rooney extended his lead at the top of the all-time England leading goal scoring charts with his 51st international goal.

A victory over world champions Germany in Berlin is the finest moment of Hodgson’s reign to-date. Having fallen 2-0 behind early in the second-half, Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Eric Dier completed the remarkable come back and left many outsiders predicting England to have a successful Euro 2016 campaign.

All those hopes of lifting the European prize in July came crashing back down to earth just a few days later when the Netherlands – going through a footballing crisis having failed to qualify for Euro 2016 - won 2-1 at Wembley stadium in a dull and uninspiring affair.

Eric Dier scored the winner in the famous win over Germany in March | Image: Carl Recine/Reuters
Eric Dier scored the winner in the famous win over Germany in March | Image: Carl Recine/Reuters

Tedious style of play and mismanagement have left England fans purring for a better successor

The game against the Netherlands at Wembley was a perfect example of the football England fans have had to endure over the last four years. Slow passing with a lack of movement in the final third has plagued England’s matches in recent years, and continues to do so at Euro 2016.

Hodgson has adopted a high-pressing style since the Germany game, which worked well in Berlin but is yet to be perfected. England dominated the first group stage game against Russia but an inability to extend their 1-0 lead was punished when the Russian’s equalised deep into added time.

The Three Lions left it late to see off Wales in the second game, while a disappointing draw against Slovakia ended goalless, with England missing several good chances. Finishing second in Group B behind Wales was another disappointment, but England can redeem themselves against Iceland.

Hodgson needs his attack to finally click in Nice. England’s expected front three of Kane, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling scored a combined 52 goals for their respective clubs in all competitions last season – so a lack of firepower will not be an excuse.

Iceland are expected to want to sit back and let England attack them, which is a style England have often failed to perform best against - leading back to the point about a lack of creativity and movement in the final third.

Lack of potential replacements could be an issue if Hodgson is to leave after the tournament

A defeat to Iceland would be the ultimate humiliation for Hodgson, England and the English Football Association. The game will be tough against an over-achieving side with a few talented individuals, namely Swansea City’s Gylfi Sigurdsson. However, England have enough depth in their squad to see off their opponents.

A defeat will certainly spell the end for Hodgson, but the FA will have a challenge ahead seeking a replacement. Gary Neville, Hodgson’s current assistant, was seen as the most likely candidate but a terrible spell in Spain in charge of Valencia put his managerial career in serious doubt. Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew was another candidate and has even hinted about his desire to replace Hodgson, but the Eagles’ poor form after Christmas saw his name go further down the FA’s list of potential replacements.

England are left with potentially having to promote within their own set-up; Gareth Southgate is set to sign a new deal to continue his good work with the England Under-21 side, and the contract could include a clause that could see him move up to the senior squad when Hodgson needs replacing. Despite his limited CV, Southgate has proven to be a capable manager at international level and recently guided the Under-20s to victory at the prestigious Toulon tournament.

His success with England's youth sides could make him the favourite, especially with the new generation of English players making their name in the senior side. Alli, Sterling, Kane and John Stones will be key players after the Euros, while Ross Barkley and Marcus Rashford are on the fringes of the regular starting eleven. 

Gareth Southgate could help to steer England's younger players in the right direction | Image: Action Images
Gareth Southgate could help to steer England's younger players in the right direction | Image: Action Images

Still a bright light at the end of a long tunnel

England and Hodgson’s fate will be decided in Nice, and although a win is highly expected, it certainly won’t come with ease. However, with Croatia already out and either Spain or Italy heading home before England take on the Nordic nation, a route to European success is still plausible. A victory will see the Three Lions take on the hosts, France, in the quarter-final, and Les Bleus have also been unconvincing. Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann have had to be at their very best to ensure the French progress to the quarter-final, having already seen off the Republic of Ireland in the last 16 – despite falling a goal behind within three minutes.

 France will play the winner of the England - Iceland in Saint-Denis on 3 July.