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Fréttablaðið looks back to the history of Iceland v England with the headline “Now the sheep will kick back”.
They look at the game between the two teams in 2004, where England won 6-1. The Icelandic team was of course not at the same level as this side, but had still just missed out on a place in the playoffs before Euro 2004.
They go on and say that it won’t be anything like that tonight. Iceland are at the same stage as England now and won as many points as them in the group stage. There are more stars in the English side, but Iceland has a team unity for the ages.
The day has arrived. Iceland will meet England in Nice tonight in, once again, the biggest game in Icelandic football history. Morgunblaðið asks on its sports section front page whether the team can go further.
It also looks back to the past as Iceland’s first professional footballer, Albert Gudmundsson, played in Nice back in the day.
Iceland will hope to create even more history here today.
More on suggestions Raheem Sterling could start for England against Iceland. The Manchester City winger did not feature against Slovakia last Monday after his half-time substitution in the second Group B game against Wales. This came on the back of a mixed first season at City but reports last week said he had received a call from Pep Guardiola, his new manager in Manchester, assuring the 21-year-old that he featured in the Spaniard’s plans.
Tellingly perhaps, Wayne Rooney talked up Sterling in the pre-match press conference at the Stade de Nice, saying there was no evidence of a lack of confidence on the winger’s part.
“He’s been normal around the camp and, on the training pitch, he’s been fantastic, sharp, taking players on, scoring goals,” said Rooney. “There’s no issue with Raheem at all. His attitude isn’t questioned. He stays behind after training doing what he does normally, and he’s a huge asset to us as a team. He’s a fantastic player and one who can turn the game in a split-second.”
The morning’s newspapers are suggesting that Raheem Sterling will return to the England starting lineup against Iceland, displacing Adam Lallana and joining Harry Kane and Daniel Sturridge in a front three.
Sterling as the only natural winger in Roy Hodgson’s squad would, it must be hoped, help stretch the Iceland defence, injecting some pace and enhancing the threat from the wide areas against opponents expected to sit deep in a bid to frustrate England.
For England fans of a nostalgic bent (and the cynic might say supporting England leaves you with no other option), it’s 20 years today since that memorable, if ultimately heartbreaking, Euro ’96 semi-final defeat on penalties against Germany at Wembley.
You actually have to go back to that summer for the last (and only) time England’s footballers actually won a knockout match at a European Championship final tournament – the quarter-final victory over Spain (and that was on penalties).
In other words, the task of beating Iceland is a not insignificant one for England, given their record in this competition down the years.
Wayne Rooney was quite sensible not to dwell on the prospect of a quarter-final against France when asked about it in the press conference earlier. “There’s no point me speaking about it now – we have to get there first,” he said, and Rooney, as the squad’s most senior player, will not need reminding of England’s past struggles against less-fancied opponents on the biggest stages having been on the pitch, after all, for the stalemates with Algeria and Costa Rica at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.