Former England manager Roy Hodgson admits he “never wanted to hear the word ‘Iceland’ again” following his team’s Euro 2016 elimination at the hands of the international minnows.
England were beaten 2-1 by Iceland in the last 16 in France earlier this year, despite taking the lead through an early Wayne Rooney penalty, with Hodgson promptly resigning post-match.
The exit was the latest in a long line of disappointments for England at major tournaments, but Hodgson says he was totally taken aback by the result.
“I never wanted to hear the word Iceland again. The game came as a massive surprise,” he told The Times.
“Everything leading up to it lulled us into a false sense of security. Not just the coaches but the players too.
“We did all our preparation for the Iceland game and that went well. The training sessions were good, everyone was motivated.
“We went into the game thinking we are better than the team we’re playing, we have better players, we are in good shape, in good form, we’re confident and it will go our way – and blow me down, the game is a few minutes old and we go one up.
“They scored immediately afterwards and that was a slight blow but then the second goal came and it seemed to be they [Iceland] were buoyed by that, it restored their faith in their journey and for some reason our players seemed to freeze a little bit.
“You start to see the fear emerging and the self-confidence draining and then you start to think: ‘What can I do to stop this?’
“During that second half you’re thinking, ‘This can’t happen, this is such a bad moment, we can’t live through the aftermath of this moment’ and you are counteracting that with considering, ‘What can we do, what changes can be made?’ Half of you is thinking tactically and the other half of you, your heart is beating faster because it’s not going your way.”
Hodgson concedes his half-time team talk did not have the desired effect but is happy to see the team recovering form after his tenure ended at 56 matches, with Gareth Southgate at the helm following Sam Allardyce’s fleeting stint in the hot seat.
“All that we did in the build-up was about having no fear,” he added. “We had to rise above the question: ‘What if we lose, what’s the reaction going to be?’
“And that was what we said at half-time. But they were just words. Saying to someone: ‘Have no fear, don’t be afraid’ – they’re good words, but what ‘no fear’ means to you might be different to what ‘no fear’ means to them.
“And don’t forget we’re dealing with young players. We knew there would come a moment when we might be criticised for not having enough wise old heads on the pitch but we were building for the future.
“The pitch didn’t help but we managed to produce the worst game out of 56 at a crucial stage of a tournament that gets you knocked out. I’m pleased the players have got over that [exit] and I see the same sort of team and set up.”
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