Published December 23, 2016
“I never want to hear the word Iceland again,” former England manager Roy Hodgson disclosed in a new interview, referring to the trouncing England received from Iceland during the UEFA Euro football competition this year.
As many will recall, Iceland smote England 2-1 in the last 16 of the competition, to the surprise of everyone but Iceland. Hodgson shared some of his thoughts about the defeat, which ultimately led to him stepping down, with The Times.
“I never wanted to hear the word Iceland again,” he said. “The game came as a massive surprise. 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.”
This confidence would be shaken and ultimately crushed as the game progressed.
“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,” Hodgson continued. “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.”
Upon reflection, Hodgson saw a few things that could have been done differently.
“All that we did in the build-up was about having no fear,” he said. “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.”
Icelanders proved to be gracious winners in the wake of the victory. In fact, one whale watching company offered free tickets for a whale watching tour to the entire England team – which is apparently not enough to smooth things over with Hodgson.