If you’re solely looking at big names and talent, then England is the clear choice ahead of Monday’s clash against Iceland in the Round of 16.
However, the Three Lions won’t be, and really shouldn’t be, overlooking their underdog opponents. One of EURO 2016’s biggest surprises, Iceland advanced out of Group F, dispatching of Austria and managing impressive draws against Hungary and Portugal.
England attacker Wayne Rooney believes that the team’s opposition is not to be overlooked after their solid efforts thus far.
“There is always pressure, regardless of the opponent. Fair play to Iceland for doing so well. The size of the nation is just a number. We both start with 11 players,” Rooney said ahead of Monday’s clash against Iceland.
“It will not be easy to break down their defense. We have to move the ball around quickly and take our chances. We respect Iceland. We will not show Iceland a lack of respect. They will make it tough for us. It’s up to us to create chances and to score goals.
“Iceland have a good squad, a good set of players who work hard for each other. There might not be any superstars, but their work ethic is great and they make life difficult for their opponents.
One thing that Rooney is certainly correct about is pressure being on England. Despite going unbeaten in Group B play, the Three Lions didn’t look confident in doing so at times. Roy Hodgson’s squad features stars like Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, however, the team’s attack managed just three finishes in as many games.
On the opposite end, Iceland may be full of relative unknowns to the common fans, but one name that will be important in the team’s success is Premier League veteran Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Swansea City midfielder may be the side’s biggest threat in the attack but Rooney also said that his team won’t solely focus on Sigurdsson.
“Sigurdsson is a fantastic player, who has done very well in the Premier League,” Rooney added. “He is a very dangerous player who can score goals from set-pieces and from open play.He is one of the players we have to look out for, but we will not solely focus on Sigurdsson.”Follow @MattReedFutbol