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England's defeat vs. Iceland at Euro 2016 will go down as one of their worst

NICE, France -- Roy Hodgson did not hang around. Within half an hour of the final whistle, he had volunteered his own name for addition to the long list of ex-England managers. That he chose not to draw out the inevitable is just about the only credit he can take on one of the English national team's darkest nights.

Make no mistake: in a long history of gutting humiliations, unrelenting lethargy and spectacular failure, Monday's defeat was right down there with the worst of them.

Do not for a moment think that this is because Iceland are "minnows," either. Minnows don't beat the Netherlands home and away. Minnows don't beat pretournament dark horse Austria. Minnows don't play like this. Iceland were magnificent. They played a perfect game. Defending with discipline and composure, moving the ball with intelligence and guile, taking their chances when they came. All of the things that you would have every reason to expect from England. But in every department where Iceland excelled, England fell so far short.

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Hodgson will carry the bulk of the blame, but you could throw a dart at the England team picture and make a reasonable argument that whoever you hit was the worst player on the pitch. Marcus Rashford, whose energy and desire enlivened the closing stages, is the only member of the squad who can leave with any semblance of pride. The others were utterly abysmal.

"It went well," understated the man of the match, Ragnar Sigurdsson. "We didn't feel that they created any chances. [Harry] Kane had an opportunity and headed straight at our goalkeeper. A lot that we were heading away, long shots from distance that we were keeping clear. I wasn't really stressed, apart from the final few minutes."

Yet England had started well. When Raheem Sterling was needlessly wiped out in the box by Iceland keeper Hannes Halldorsson in the third minute, Wayne Rooney stepped up and coolly slipped the spot kick into the bottom corner. Perhaps that was the problem; it all seemed too easy. And then, 34 seconds after the restart, Iceland were level. They equalised with a goal created from the sort of long throw-in that everybody knew they excelled at. Everybody except the English defence, apparently.

Twelve minutes later, Iceland were ahead, and there was nothing blunt or prosaic about the game-winning goal, either -- a fine exchange of passes and a finish from Kolbeinn Sigthorsson that keeper Joe Hart should have been able to keep out. It wasn't his first error in this tournament.

There is plenty of blame to go around for England's latest failure at a major tournament.

England didn't collapse immediately, and had it not been for the fingertips of Halldorsson, they might have equalised through a well-struck Kane effort. But in the second half, they just fell to pieces. Rooney, who played well enough in the group stages, had a disastrous evening in the middle, losing possession over and over again.

The gamble to recall Raheem Sterling after three desperate halves of football in the opening weeks was quickly and sharply exposed. He lasted an hour before he was withdrawn, as ineffectual here as he has been all summer. Harry Kane's touch was poor, Dele Alli couldn't link up the play, and Jack Wilshere looked anaemic. The problems seemed to multiply as the half went on, and even the simplest actions and easiest passes were proving an insurmountable challenge.

Hodgson has made mistakes and few of his decisions have paid off, but these players bear heavy responsibility for their failure to maintain any level of acceptable quality. There was no intensity, there was no leadership, there was no control. By the end, they were just lumping the ball into the final third, praying that something would happen.

This was a monumental mental collapse, a widespread, catastrophic loss of competence across the board. With 20 minutes to go, Iceland, the team that plays without possession and hits on the break, were patiently passing the ball around the hopeless English as Iceland's fans were going delirious with pride in the stands.

Hodgson will bear the brunt for this. And so he should. A performance like this would damn any manager. For all the players' failings, he has made decisions that will baffle football historians of the future, none more so than the odd and curiously unshakable belief that Kane should take set pieces.

That was when the English supporters knew the game was up -- as full-time approached and a dangerous free kick was won 25 yards out, wide on the left in perfect crossing territory. Up stepped Kane, the one man you'd want in the penalty area for such an opportunity...

...he sent the ball high and well wide of the goal.

Iceland fully deserve their stunning win. Everything they tried worked to a tee vs. England.

"I'm sorry it's had to end this way with another exit from the tournament," read Hodgson later. "These things happen. All I can do is wish everybody all the very best and hope that you will still be able to see an England team in the final of a major tournament fairly soon. We've been unable to deliver."

It shouldn't surprise anyone that England have crashed out so early. They have won only three knockout games since the 1990 World Cup, and one of those was on penalty kicks. But it's the nature of the defeat that came as such a shock. Hodgson's England were not perfect by any means. There has never been a time when they have seriously looked like one of the continent's finest teams. They've always been just ... well ... ordinary. They have never looked as jaw-droppingly wretched as they did here.

And what on earth happens now? There is no heir apparent. There is no gifted young manager waiting in the wings. Once again, English football is in crisis. Once again, the rest of the world is laughing at them.

Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.


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