Iceland’s last-gasp winning goal against Austria was celebrated with similar vigour amongst sections of England fans as it was the supporters of the nation who scored it.
The motivation for this shared elation was provided by Arnor Traustason, whose injury-time strike re-routed Strakarnir okkar’s last-16 course from Lens, where they would’ve faced Croatia, to Nice, sparing the Three Lions of what was perceived to be a more difficult meeting with Portugal in their first knockout clash.
No team left at Euro 2016 has had fewer attempts at goal than Iceland, who took aim just 23 times in their opening trio of tournament matches, while just 24.6% of the possession they’ve had was inside the opposition’s half.
It suggests the threat they’ll pose Joe Hart’s goal will be minimal, but this doesn’t make them a more navigable last-16 adversary than Portugal, or any other pre-competition favourite for that matter.
Iceland’s modus operandi will revolve around erecting their ironclad backline, aptly nicknamed ‘The Blue Wall’, in front of the net they’re defending and remaining as compact as possible for as long as circumstances allow.
Such a strategy will see England dominate the ball but, as proven against Slovakia, near-unregulated access to the orb in no way guarantees Roy Hodgson’s men goals.
Jan Kozak’s troops abandoned adventure and set out to frustrate, denying their game three foes space in the final third and their valiant, if unambitious, efforts were duly rewarded with a clean sheet.
Iceland have proved masters in the art of the same strategy having avoided defeat in each of their Group F encounters and will doubtless turn to it again as they make England wish they’d drawn Cristiano Ronaldo and co instead.
Win, Lose or Draw
Ruthlessness has been sorely lacking from England’s Euro 2016 campaign to date and its absence will deny them victory here.
Scoring an early goal is paramount in order to pry the cloistered Scandinavians out from behind their rock-solid rearguard.
Indeed, Iceland shipped in the first minute of their most recent defeat, which came against Arctic Circle adversaries Norway in a pre-tournament friendly.
But even if they do ship early, the knowledge that they’ve conceded multiple goals just once in nine competitive matches will ensure their hopes of getting back into the game aren’t too heavily dented.
They’ve only lost twice in non-friendly circumstances since 2014 and have drawn just two blanks in that time (one of said defeats – the 1-0 reverse against Turkey – came after they’d already qualified for this competition, while their opponents were still scrapping to avoid a play-off and, even then, the winning goal wasn’t scored until the 89th-minute).
They’re robust, unrelenting and perfectly tailored to frustrate, perhaps even shock, an England outfit lacking in penetration.
Recommended bet: Iceland win or draw double-chance @ 29/20
While England did look lacking on the creative front against Slovakia, it was the first time in nine games in which they failed to find the net.
Holding as firm as possible will be Iceland’s main aim, but their ability to find the net was outlined in the previous section and, despite their primary objectives, they’re yet to keep a clean sheet at Euro 2016.
The solo shutout Hodgson’s side managed came in said Slovakia game, though the opposition’s lack of adventure, not their own defensive acumen, was chiefly responsible.
It points to both teams scoring here, which gives over 2.5 goals a good chance of copping.
Recommended bet: Over 2.5 goals @ 6/4
Who’s Going To Score?
In the confined spaces that will surround Iceland’s goal, a forward with fast feet will be integral for England and, as he reaffirmed against Wales, few have toes as twinkly as Daniel Sturridge.
From the Three Lions’ perspective, the Liverpool marksman’s introduction changed the game for the better against the Dragons, as his withdrawal did for the worse against Slovakia.
Sticking with him is vital if England are to break down the Icelanders.
Recommended bet: Sturridge to score first @ 4/1
England are yet to score a first-half goal at the tournament, while there’s been exactly one pre-interval strike in each of Iceland’s three games so far, two of which have been in their favour.
Their forthcoming opponents leaked one of their two goals so far before the break, suggesting they may be value in backing a half-time, solitary-goal lead for the underdogs.
Recommended bet: England 0-1 Iceland HT correct score @ 7/1