Iceland have had an amazing run in Euro 2016, qualifying for the round of 16 with some gritty performances in the group stages. In fact, they even exceeded expectations, finishing above Portugal and Austria. At the pre-quarters clash in Nice on Monday, they face a team – England – studded with stars, who will be keen to reach the last eight of the competition.
On paper, England look a wonderful team, with quality stars in various positions, which makes them favourite to defeat Iceland, who have lesser known players. Iceland does not have anything to lose, so they can play without thinking about the result too much, while England will be under pressure to deliver. There are great expectations from Roy Hodgson's side after a splendid run in the qualifying stages.
However, England have not been able to repeat their incredible Euro 2016 qualifiers performances. Though England have not lost a single game in the competition, they are yet to hit top gear. They finished second in their group, hence setting up a date with Iceland.
The Three Lions have looked good in phases, but their finishing needs to improve if they are to go all the way in the competition. Hodgson was criticised for making as many as six changes for their game against Slovakia, but he is expected to start with his best XI, which will include Wayne Rooney as well.
England's boss has good strikers at his disposal, including, Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane, and it remains to be seen, which goalscorers he would start up front.
With Adam Lallana getting injured in training, and if the player is unfit for the important encounter, Raheem Sterling might also get a chance to start. The Manchester City player, who has had a poor Euro 2016, needs to use his pace to exploit Iceland at the back.
Wayne Rooney will marshal his team from the midfield. The skipper needs to get more out of his team, which is capable of doing some extraordinary things in the competition. Despite not shining in the Euro 2016, they have held their ground, and played some decent football, but they need to take their game to another level as the could play France in the quarterfinals, with a win.
Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling will need to make sure that they do not make any silly errors and concede soft-free kicks in the dangerous position. With Gylfi Sigurdsson being a specialist in dead ball situation, Iceland will be keen to draw fouls and look for their star player to find the back of the net or provide perfect balls to his players.
Iceland are a big physical side, and they are always going to be a huge threat in corners, and add to it, long throws from Aron Gunnarsson, and they can create chaos.
Iceland, it is understood, will not enjoy great ball possession, and they will be keen to break on the counter. If they manage to score a goal or more importantly take lead, one can bet Iceland players to give it their all for a win. And with around 10,000 Icelandic fans expected in Nice, England will have a tough time.
Iceland have been superb in defence throughout the group stages, not allowing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo space to work his magic through as well. Iceland defenders, primarily Kari Arnason, who has been brilliant, will need to shut all doors for England when Rooney and co. come full tilt at them.
The best thing for Iceland's coach Lars Lagerback is that they have a fully fit squad to pick from so the boss will try to find his best XI, which can help him produce positive result. Birkir Bjarnason, Kolbeinn Sigbrrsson and Jon Bodvarsson will play an integral role in the offensive front, and they will be responsible for finding the back of the net against Iceland, which can send them to dreamland.
Confirmed starting XI: England: Hart, Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose, Alli, Dier, Rooney, Sturridge, Kane, Sterling.
Iceland: Halldorsson, Saevarsson, Arnason, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Skulason, Gudmundsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Gunnarsson, Birkir Bjarnason, Sigthorsson, Bodvarsson.