Wayne Rooney hopes England will score an early goal in their Euro 2016 round-of-16 match against Iceland on Monday, but is confident they have what it takes to break down their opponents’ defence even if they sit back all game.
Roy Hodgson’s men have been struggling going forward at the finals in France and failed to find the net in their last group-stage game against Slovakia.
Rooney – who started that game on the bench in one of six changes – sees plenty of reason for optimism, though, and thinks breaking the deadlock early in Nice would set them well on their way to the quarter-finals.
“If we get that goal, an early goal against Iceland, they will have to come out at us which could suit us as well,” said the England captain.
“It depends how it goes on the day, but we feel that we’re a good team and can play against teams who want to defend or teams who want to come and have a go at us.
“We feel we can change our game to plan for whichever team we play, and everyone knows it’s the business end of the tournament and we have to be more ruthless to go through in games.
“Although I think we’ve dominated games, we haven’t looked like losing so that’s always a positive sign, but we have to make sure we take those chances.”
Iceland, meanwhile, will be hoping to build on their successful campaign so far with another shock.
They beat Austria to clinch second spot in their group after previously drawing versus Hungary and Portugal.
Gylfi Sigurdsson realises they face a tough task to reach the quarter-finals, however, and has singled out Rooney as England’s man to watch.
“Rooney is a very good passer of the ball. He can get players in position from 60 or 70 yards with a quick pass over the top,” said the Swansea City midfielder.
“He wouldn’t be where he is today if he wasn’t a great player. There is an incredible pressure on him to perform for England and he is one of the leaders of their team as one of the experienced players in the squad. He is going to have to be one of the players we stop if we are going to stop them from playing.
“He is an incredible player, especially with the amount of goals he has scored for England. He is England’s all-time top goalscorer so he has been fantastic for his country and Manchester United. I don’t think anyone has got a bad word to say about him.”
England defenders Gary Cahill and Ryan Bertrand are one booking away from a suspension, while Birkir Bjarnason, Johann Gudmundsson and Birkir Saevarsson have to be careful for Iceland.
Key Opta Facts:
– This will be the third encounter between England and Iceland. So far, England are unbeaten, having drawn 1-1 in June 1982 and won 6-1 in June 2004
– England are unbeaten in their last 10 games at the European championship, shoot-outs excluded.
– Iceland are unbeaten at Euro 2016 so far. In fact, they have only lost once across their last nine competitive matches (winning four, drawing four).
– Wayne Rooney scored four goals in his first three games at a major tournament with England (all at Euro 2004). Since then, he’s netted two goals in 17 games.
– Iceland striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson has only has two shots in 245 minutes at EURO 2016. None of them have been on target.
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