SPORT

England Makes Second Brexit In A Week, Losing 2-1 To Iceland

A Viking raid on England's soul.

28/06/2016 9:30 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:56 PM AEST
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Reuters Staff / Reuters
England was left seeking comfort from the turf.

England has made its second grand exit from a European institution in the space of a week, this time being ousted from the Euro 2016 championship by Iceland 2-1 in a come-from-behind victory.

The narrative for this round-of-16 elimination match, and indeed for the rest of the tournament, looked like it had been set in place by recent political events. Politically, England had left Europe. But England had hoped to still rule Europe, on the football pitch.

Iceland only qualified for this tournament with a victory over The Netherlands which was one of the upsets of the decade. Its last gasp victory over Austria in the group stage to qualify for this match was so remarkable it caused a commentator to have a virtual "audiogasm".

Iceland's entire population of 320,000 is roughly the same as Sunderland, England's 21st most populous city. Sunderland, for the record, is the team that finished a lowly 17th in the recent English Premier League Football season, but even its mediocre football team would likely have done better than the disjointed rabble who took the field for England overnight.

There had been genuine reason for England fans to hope. England had its youngest team at a major championship in 58 years. Its football was not always perfect but was at least positive.

England had a home-grown manager in Roy Hodgson after years of experimenting with continentals. A young, youthful England doing things the England way.

Things looked good for England early when Wayne Rooney scored from the penalty spot inside four minutes.

But England, with such a strong passion for the game and so many fine home-grown players, had failed to produce a cohesive national team.

They weren't able to function together as a unit.

Iceland equalised on the back of a long throw-in from Aron Gunnarssson. Hodgson had warned his men of the dangers of Gunnarssson's trademark throws. His warning was in vain. Ragnar Sigurdsson slammed the ball home from close range.

Fans of the TV show "Vikings" will know that a character called Ragnar is the chief protagonist. Watchers of that show and history buffs alike will know that the Vikings made frequent raids on English soil.

This was a raid on England's soul.

It all got worse for the men in white after 37 minutes when Iceland scored again. If ever a goal looked like it was just meant to be, this was it.

England goalkeeper Joe Hart's miss wasn't quite dire enough to be in the "howler" category. But suffice to say, it was the sort of save a topline keeper should make. And it's funny how time and time again, England keepers make these awful mistakes at big tournaments.

Remember David Seaman against Ronaldinho at the 2002 World Cup? Remember Robert Green against the USA in 2010?

It's as though England is cursed. Or more to the point, as though England is its own worst enemy. Now there's a sport and politics metaphor you can really work with.

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