NICE, France — Iceland pulled off the biggest shocks in European Championship history by beating England 2-1 in the round of 16 on Monday, continuing the astonishing run of the smallest nation at the tournament.
England slumped to its most embarrassing loss in a generation after taking the lead in the fourth minute through Wayne Rooney’s penalty.
Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson took advantage of defensive shortcomings by England to put Iceland ahead by the 18th minute, and the Icelanders defended superbly in the second half to earn the biggest victory in their history.
The country of 330,000 — featuring in its first ever major tournament — next plays host nation France in Saint-Denis on Sunday, while England heads home early again for another post-tournament inquest. England’s players slumped to the ground after the final whistle, their heads in their hands.
For a soccer nation of England’s standing, its record in major tournaments is woeful. The English have still never won a knockout-stage game abroad in the European Championship in eight attempts and haven’t won a match beyond the group stage of a major tournament since 2006.
This defeat will probably go down as England’s most humiliating since losing 1-0 to the United States in 1950 World Cup.
Even more so since its team of Premier League stars took the lead on a balmy night at the Stade de Nice after Raheem Sterling — a contentious pick by Hodgson on the left wing — was clipped by goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson as he prodded the ball past him. Rooney converted the penalty into the bottom-left corner.
Iceland struck back immediately through Sigurdsson, volleying in at the far post after Kari Arnason’s flick-on from a long throw. Sigthorsson then took advantage of more slack defending by England, getting time and space to shoot from just inside the area. Goalkeeper Joe Hart got a hand to the effort but the ball squirmed in.
Iceland was relatively untroubled in the second half as England’s passing and touch deserted its players, with Rooney especially culpable.