Iceland won their previous match by beating Austria by 2-1 © Getty Images
Iceland won their previous match by beating Austria by 2-1 © Getty Images

Chantilly: England manager Roy Hodgson is expecting a tough battle when his team take on Iceland in the pre-quarterfinals of the ongoing Euro 2016 football tournament here next Monday. Placed in Group B alongside relative minnows Russia, Wales and Slovakia, the England players endured a tough time breaking down stubborn defences and could only score thrice in their three group matches. Hodgson fears that Iceland, who employed a defensive, counter-attacking style on their way to second place in Group F, will provide another tough test for the England forwards. “I fear it won’t differ enormously from our group games because Iceland aren’t an expansive team,” Hodgson told FA TV on Thursday.

“I know the coach Lars Lagerback very well and he always prepares his teams extremely well in that way, so I don’t think we’re going to benefit from lots and lots of space in the game. You take what you get in the last 16 and we are just pleased to be there, so we need to make sure we do enough preparation for the game. It is 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,” he added.

“We know Iceland have played extremely well in their qualifying group games, where they topped their group ahead of Holland, and since they have been here they have had some remarkable successes, so we know it won’t be an easy game.” Hodgson has discarded England’s traditional 4-4-2 formation by opting for five midfielders and a lone centre-forward in either Hary Kane or Jamie Vardy. The England players have struggled to adapt to the new formation with poor finishing adding to their woes.

“Our ratio of creating chances and taking chances is not good, that needs to be improved and everyone is aware of that so it will be nice if we can start with that on Monday evening,” Hogdson said. Hodgson made six changes for England’s final group match against Slovakia. It did not really pay off as England struggled against the well organised Slovak defence and wasted the chances they managed to create. But Hodgson insisted that he made the correct decision even though the match ended goalless. “With the full-backs, it was more a case really of following what they do in their club sides.

“(Kyle) Walker and (Danny) Rose don’t very often play three matches in a row in a week, at one stage they were not even playing two matches in a week, because (Tottenham manager Mauricio) Pochettino was rotating the sets of full-backs all the time, so I thought it was a very obvious thing to do in that match,” he said. “So the two players I suppose you could say really got a rest, were Dele Alli and Wayne Rooney, but even they came on for 30 and 25 minutes respectively, so they didn’t get as much rest as we would like, but they should be that little bit fresher,” Hodgson added.

“The front players were the two who had finished the game against Wales, and the two that only played the first half, they have also had a bit of a rest.”