Iceland heroes leave England in turmoil

Gary Cahill (Getty)
Gary Cahill (Getty)

Nice - No one thought they stood a chance, but Iceland stuck to their guns and pulled off one of football's biggest shocks, dumping England out of Euro 2016 and forcing their manager Roy Hodgson to quit in disgrace.

Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson claimed their place in sporting history with the goals that secured a 2-1 win on a hot, humid night in Nice for the smallest nation ever to play in a major tournament.

"They thought this would be a walk in the park," said Sigurdsson of England's attitude.

But Iceland, with a population of just 330,000, joyously claimed a quarter-final match against hosts France, just after Italy beat Spain 2-0 to set up a last eight clash with Germany.

The exit from the European Championship finals left fans of England -- population 53 million and with the world's wealthiest football league -- reeling with a similar sense of desperation as the loosing "Remain" camp of Britain's 'Brexit' referendum.

England's players were stunned. Hodgson read out his resignation statement within minutes of the final whistle.

Iceland's players celebrated in joyous disbelief with their 3,500 fans in the stadium.

Captain Aron Gunnarsson, who plays for Cardiff in the English league, said Iceland had been turned "upside down" by the win.

"It's just a proud moment and something we'll treasure for the rest of our lives," he said.

"We always believe. That's our attitude."

Wayne Rooney put England ahead from the penalty spot inside five minutes. But Sigurdsson equalised within 75 seconds and Sigthorsson shot Iceland ahead with a goal that embarrassed England goalkeeper Joe Hart.

England never showed any belief and Hodgson, 68, had to take responsibility.

"I'm extremely disappointed of course about tonight's result and ultimately our exit from the competition. We haven't progressed as far as I thought we were capable of, and that's obviously not acceptable," he said in his resignation statement.

"We are in the results business," he added. "Now is the time for someone else to oversee the progress of this young, hungry and extremely talented group of players."

England's performance ranks alongside some of the most dismal at major tournaments. England already feature on the list of shame with their 1-0 defeat to an amateur United States side at the 1950 World Cup.

England, ranked 11th in the world, were left cursing by Hart's blunder that led to Iceland's second goal as Sigthorsson's tame shot could easily have been stopped.

"We will get a lot of flak and we deserve it," Hart said.

"We will learn from this and try and bring English football back to where it belongs. We have put it in a low place.

"The next manager has a tough job on his hands. We worked hard but with no success. That is how this team will be remembered."

Hart was by no means the only one to blame for the defeat to the world 34th-ranked Icelanders however.

"It's embarrassing for us," admitted England captain Rooney.

"We know we're a better team. We're the ones on the pitch. You can't just say it's Roy Hodgson's fault or one player's fault. We're all in it together so we all have to share that responsibility."

The English Football Association quickly said it was "disappointed" by the defeat.

"We back Roy Hodgson's decision to step down as England manager and will discuss next steps imminently," the FA said in a statement.

Former England captain Gary Lineker called the result "the worst defeat in our history". He added on Twitter: "England beaten by a country with more volcanoes than professional footballers. Well played Iceland."

Earlier, Italy dumped defending champions Spain out of the contest. Their 2-0 triumph ended a 22-year run without a win over their rivals. They face world champions Germany on Saturday in Bordeaux.

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