LONDON (Reuters) – Former England players and the country’s media lined up to savage the national soccer team on Monday night after one of its most embarrassing defeats, a 2-1 loss to tiny Iceland which sent them spinning out of the European Championship.
“Good Riddance” the Daily Mail bellowed on its back page. The Daily Express needed just one word, “Clueless”, while the normally more measured Daily Telegraph simply stated “England’s greatest humiliation”.
Just days after Britons had voted to leave the European Union in a referendum that sent shockwaves around the world, England’s footballers managed to deliver a European exit of their own in Nice almost as stunning.
Fans leaving the stadium in Nice appeared dazed. “We’re a country of about 60 million,” one said, “and that’s the best we can do? It’s a joke.”
Some observers said this was England’s worse result since losing to the United States in the World Cup in 1950, while others pointed to their thrashing by Hungary in 1954. All agreed one thing though — this was very bad, and gallows humour was flooding the internet almost instantly.
A joke immediately spread about a petition being set up to have the match replayed, referring to the petition more than 2.4 million Britons have signed on parliament’s website calling for a second EU referendum. Many jokers were suggesting Roy Hodgson should take over from the outgoing David Cameron as Britain’s Prime Minister “as he would be the perfect man to lead the country out of Europe”.
Just as Cameron said he would step down following the Brexit vote, Hodgson resigned in the aftermath of England’s defeat, saying his contract was always going to be up at the end of the tournament.
“The worst defeat in our history,” tweeted former striker Gary Lineker. “England beaten by a country with more volcanoes than professional footballers. Well played, Iceland.”
That England had started so well against the nation of 330,000 made the defeat more painful.
Wayne Rooney had put England ahead with a fourth-minute penalty, but Iceland equalised two minutes later then took a lead they would never relinquish against a toothless England attack.
Linker was joined by a number of former England players in eviscerating Hodgson’s players.
“England – pathetic, shocking, inept,” was Alan Shearer’s verdict, while Peter Crouch, who played at two World Cups, was also scathing. “Iceland looked more organised than us. It’s embarrassing, there’s no dressing it up,” he said on British TV.
Former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright joined the chorus of discontent. “They did not perform today. They were rubbish in this game. Rubbish,” Wright said on ITV.
“Someone was waiting for someone else to do something. They were petrified,” he added.
Iceland will now meet host nation France in the quarter-finals, while England return home to a storm of criticism that shows no sign of abating any time soon.
By Ossian Shine (Additional reporting by Philip O’Connor in Stockholm and Adrian Warner in London, Editing by Angus MacSwan)