England boss Roy Hodgson says no stone will be left unturned as his squad prepare for a showdown with a defensive Iceland in the knockout stages of Euro 2016.
After only managing a goalless draw against Slovakia on Monday to see Wales end up as winners of Group B, the England camp have been waiting to find out their opponents in the last 16.
As the last matches of Group F entered their closing moments on Wednesday afternoon, it appeared that would mean another date with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo in Nice on Monday night, until Iceland snatched a dramatic last-gasp winner against Austria to finish behind Hungary.
Tournament debutants Iceland are the lowest ranked side left in the competition, at 34th in the world, and the smallest nation ever to reach the finals with a population of just 330,000.
However, England will have all their homework done by the time the two nations kick off at the Allianz Riviera.
“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,” Hodgson said to FA TV.
“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.
“I fear it won’t differ enormously from our group games because Iceland aren’t an expansive team.
“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.”
Hodgson wants England to find a “killer instinct” to help turn dominance of possession into goals when the knockout stage kicks off.
He added: “Their [Iceland’s] success has been built on a very solid defensive organisation and an incredibly hard work ethic.
“We’ll have to make certain that we are aware of that and hope that we can keep the domination that we’ve had in games and the control we’ve had in the games, but maybe be a bit more ruthless and have more of a killer instinct in front of goal.
“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.”
Hodgson made six changes for England’s final group match in St Etienne and can understand the frustrations of not being able to see off Slovakia to secure top spot.
Despite now facing the prospect of a potential quarter-final against hosts France and then possibly world champions Germany in the last four should all the nations progress, Hodgson feels his squad are capable of rising to any challenge ahead.
“Results are of course what matters and if you don’t get them you are going to be very disappointed and very unhappy, especially at tournament level,” the England boss added.
“We were the favourites to win the group, deservedly favourites I think, and obviously believe we did enough to win the group. But we didn’t because the performances were not matched by the result we got in the games, so as a result we have to accept second place and possibly going into what is on paper a harder part of the draw.
“But the mood in the camp is good because the players obviously believe they are a good team and capable of beating any team in the tournament on their day.”
Hodgson feels his rotation policy was a sound decision.
“With the full-backs, it was more a case really of following what they do in their club sides,” he said.
“(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 (Slovakia) match.
“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.
“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.”