Iceland will look to continue their fairytale run at Euro 2016 when they take on England in the round of 16 at the Allianz Riviera on Monday night.
Strakarnir Okkar have defied all expectations in qualifying for the knockout phase at their first appearance in the European Championship and, with a population of just a shade over 330,000, the smallest nation to have done so.
They began the tournament by upsetting the apple cart with a 1-1 draw against Portugal, and did the same against Hungary before producing one of the upsets of the group stages by beating Austria 2-1 to finish second in Group F, level on points with Hungary in first place and behind on goal difference alone.
The Three Lions also qualified second in their group with five points from a win and two draws, but they are a lot less happy about it. They have had significant trouble upfront, despite selecting a very top-heavy squad for the Euros, having had more shots than anyone else at the tournament but only managing three goals.
Roy Hodgson is determined to make sure his side is as prepared as possible for the crucial knockout match and has spent the week leading up to the game making sure there are no signs of complacency from his players.
“It’s purely and simply one of preparation now, making sure the players know as much as we can tell them about Iceland and the type of game they’re likely to face,” Hodgson said.
“We know Iceland have played extremely well in their qualifying group games, where they topped their group ahead of Holland, and since they’ve been here they’ve had some remarkable successes so we know it won’t be an easy game.”
Much has been made of England captain Wayne Rooney’s move into midfield to allow room for Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane to fill the striker role with mixed reactions to his performances at the Euros so far, but Iceland star Gylfi Sigurdsson is adamant they need to keep the Manchester United man quiet if they are to get anything from the match.
“He is an incredible player, especially with the amount of goals he has scored for England,” Sigurdsson said. “He is England’s all-time top goalscorer so he has been fantastic for his country and Manchester United. I don’t think anyone has got a bad word to say about him.
“He is a very good passer of the ball. He can play in players from 60 or 70 yards with a quick pass over the top. He wouldn’t be where he is today if he wasn’t a great player.”
Rooney scared England fans earlier this week when he was photographed with bandages on his ankle, but those fears have since been set aside as he has fully participated in training this week and is believed to be fully fit.
This fitness of Adam Lallana is far less certain after the Liverpool man was seen limping around the training area with heavy strapping on his right foot.
Iceland have no injury or suspension concerns ahead of the clash.