Iceland’s improbable run set off a huge celebration in the country. But now it’s back to business as they face a powerful English squad that, as always, has their eyes set on the Euro title.
England didn’t have a dream group play round, playing to draws with Russia and Slovakia, before getting a 2-1 win over Wales to advance. But the key is that they’re here now and heavily favored to beat Iceland.
Will things play out the way that they look on paper? Or do the Icelanders have another surprise ready? Find out as we cover this matchup and discuss which team you should bet on.
England vs Iceland (3:00pm EST at June 27)
Iceland -0.5 (+145)
England +0.5 (-182)
England vs Iceland Overview
The final scores of England’s games don’t necessarily reflect how well they played. The British dominated all three foes, but made a few tactical errors that prevented these matches from being more impressive than they were.
Does this guarantee anything against Iceland? No, but these underwhelming performances show that the English have another gear that they’ve yet to unlock.
For Iceland, one major challenge is believing that they belong on this stage. As Ronaldo complained after his Portugal team played them, Iceland celebrated like they won the 2016 Euro. The team has now had a week to get over their incredible achievement and focus on an even tougher task at hand: beating England.
Iceland will likely take a defensive approach to this match that involves preventing England from getting good chances. This is the same way that Slovakia held the English scoreless while forcing a 0-0 draw. And the key to pulling off this feat will be Aron Gunnarsson, who’ll be locked on England’s midfielders.
Given Iceland’s defensive approach, Wayne Rooney will be key to helping England knife through the packed defense. Rooney has been criticized in the past for looking for fancy crossfield passes, instead of shorter passes that can eventually break through a massed defense. So his side will be hoping for more tactical passing against Iceland.
One other key matchup will be between English left-back Kyle Walker and Icelandic right-back Ari Skulason. Walker is a strong player who can set up Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy, and Harry Kane with good crosses. Skulason, a smaller, faster player, is also good at passing and will be setting up Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Kolbeinn Sighorsson.
Breakout Performers: Daniel Sturridge, Gylfi Sigurdsson
Although inconsistent, Sturridge is expected to start for England as they face off against Iceland. The striker will be key to beating Iceland’s defenders because he’s a speedy player who also has a few tricks that help him get off good shots. Roy Hodgson’s squad might try to quickly attack in the opening minutes to get a fast goal, which could come courtesy of Sturridge.
Surprisingly, Sigurdsson hasn’t had a big impact on Iceland’s Euro matches so far. But this is mostly due to the team not having much possession time in their midfield. If Iceland can keep England out of their backfield and get the ball to Sigurdsson where he can create, then they have a solid chance at scoring. The Swansea man has lots of Premier League experience and an excellent shot to show off his skills tomorrow.
Prediction on England vs Iceland
Iceland making the round of 16 is one of the greatest stories in recent Euro Cups. Most expected them to finish last in their group, but they made a surprising run through the tourney that has gained them worldwide attention. Unfortunately, we think that the ride ends here for Iceland because they’re overmatched and will have trouble mounting an attack while maintaining good defense – especially if they get behind early. Look for England to win by 1 or 2 goals.
Final Score Prediction: England wins 2-0
Betting Advice: Bet on England on the spread or moneyline.