England’s soccer journalists left their readers with no illusions on Tuesday after their side’s Euro 2016 hopes were crushed by Iceland, describing the 2-1 loss as the worst in their history.
Goals from Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson were enough to lead the tiny nation to a quarter-final clash with hosts France, with the loss costing England manager Roy Hodgson his job.
British media held nothing back on Tuesday with the headlines proclaiming the loss as not only “embarrassing” but also “the ultimate humiliation.”
Many referred to England’s shock 1-0 loss to the United States in the 1950 World Cup in Brazil in their post-match reports, though they felt the result in Nice would now surpass that as their worst in international soccer.
“This was England’s most humiliating night in international football: far worse than the 1950 World Cup defeat to the USA in Belo Horizonte,” Paul Hayward wrote in The Telegraph.
“Defeat here in Nice was always going to be a deeper trauma. This one came in the era of the Premier League as global industry.”
The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor also compared Monday’s result to the 1950 loss in Belo Horizonte and suggested England’s allusions to being one of the powerhouses of world soccer now needed to be questioned.
“Hodgson’s reign will be defined by a result comparable to losing to the United States in the 1950 World Cup,” Taylor wrote. “The now-familiar inquest will begin again in a country that likes to see itself as football royalty.”
The Daily Mail’s Martin Samuel described the loss as a “seismic wave” for English soccer and felt that Hodgson probably should have been sacked after the side’s group phase exit at the 2014 World Cup.
“What a waste the last two years have been,” Samuel wrote. “Hodgson should have gone in 2014, when England lasted two matches at the World Cup. He wasn’t the man then, he isn’t the man now.
“There has been much talk of progress, promise and a strong culture of responsibility, but under pressure, that all evaporated.”
While Hodgson was blamed for having a seemingly incoherent plan for the tournament with no clear idea on his strongest side or how to play the game, the players and the culture of the English Premier League were also criticised.
“The reason why the nation struggles to feel empathy or connections with many of these players is the ego,” Ian Herbert wrote in The Independent. “Too famous, too important, too rich, too high and mighty… that is this England.”
The Guardian’s Dominic Fifield also criticised the more experienced players in the squad, who had not shown any leadership or stepped up to help their younger team members.
“Hodgson had needed his most established players to excel if the team were going to make an impression,” Fifield wrote. “In the end they simply wilted like the rest.”
The BBC’s chief soccer writer Phil McNulty also felt the players would need to take a look at themselves under a new manager.
“The ultimate responsibility lies with the manager but, make no mistake, he was badly let down by players capable of so much better,” McNulty wrote.
“Hodgson will take the blame and has paid the price but these highly paid Premier League players should not escape criticism.”