England manager Roy Hodgson looks certain to recall Raheem Sterling for what he accepts is a “win or bust” match against Iceland in the last 16 at Euro 2016 in Nice on Monday.
The 21-year-old Manchester City winger, who has struggled so far in the tournament, is expected to replace Adam Lallana as Harry Kane and Daniel Sturridge form England’s attacking spearhead.
Sterling was substituted at half-time in the 2-1 win against Wales when England trailed 1-0 and was left out of the goalless draw with Slovakia.
However, Sterling received strong public backing from England assistant boss Ray Lewington and former Liverpool team-mate Sturridge, who told BBC Radio 5 Live that Sterling was “one of the most talented players in the world”.
He is likely to start on the left with Kane through the centre, leaving Sturridge to try and pose a threat from a position on the right.
England’s likely line-up: Hart, Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose, Alli, Dier, Rooney, Sterling, Kane, Sturridge.
Hodgson’s deal expires at the end of the tournament and Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has said the 68-year-old will only stay on if England “do well”, suggesting that a quarter-final place was a minimum requirement.
Hosts France, who beat the Republic of Ireland 2-1, will be the quarter-final opponents in Paris next Sunday should England beat underdogs Iceland, who are ranked 34th in the world.
Hodgson is aware of how the knockout phase could impact on his own future, saying: “I think the day you stop concerning yourself, worrying about it, thinking about it, that’s the day when you’ve lost interest in the work.”
The wrong half of the draw?
England could only finish second behind Wales in Group B, therefore dropping into the harder half of the Euro 2016 draw alongside France, Germany, Spain and Italy.
Hodgson was criticised after he made six changes to his side and then missed out on the win against Slovakia that would have put them at the head of their section, instead drawing 0-0.
The manager added: “All you can do is force yourself to worry only about the things you can do – to make certain that when you look in the mirror, as the players go out on to the field, you can look at yourself and say ‘What else could I have done?’
“‘Did we prepare well enough? Was the training right? Have I chosen the right team?'”
England’s draw against Slovakia meant a last-16 meeting with Iceland, but placed them in what is widely regarded as the tougher half of the draw if they move deeper into Euro 2016.
Their fans were starting to gather in the south of France on Sunday – and Hodgson knows there is only one outcome that will satisfy the thousands expected to gather inside the Allianz Riviera Stade De Nice, England’s players and, in all likelihood, the FA.
Hodgson demands ruthless streak
England scored only three goals in three group games and Hodgson revealed the squad had been “brutal” on themselves in an attempt to cure a lack of cutting edge.
“I don’t think we can be accused of not having imposed ourselves on the game,” he said. “I don’t even think we can be accused of not creating any goal chances because I think we have.
“We haven’t taken them and as a result we have drawn against Slovakia in a game in which, with that type of domination, should have been a win but we didn’t get it.
“We need to be as ruthless as we can possibly be because we know there are no prizes, unfortunately, for playing what some people might think is good football.
“It’s now all about winning or losing, staying in or going out, and we have been very brutal with ourselves in that respect and we have a very brutal focus.”
A life-changing match for Iceland players
Joint Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson, 49, had to take time off work for this tournament as he juggles his role with the national team with his job as a part-time dentist.
He will take over from his co-manager Lars Lagerback at the end of this tournament, and he believes he and his players could be in for a life-changing experience if they beat England.
“The players have already won the hearts of all Icelandic people for their performances,” he said.
“If we beat England, their lives will significantly change forever. Icelandic football will go up in reputation and the way we approach football will be different.
“It will all look different for us. If you want the best out of life, you have to be ready when the chance is there for you.
“There aren’t bigger chances than this for Icelandic football. It’s just up to the players to play and hopefully we will beat England. But whichever way this goes, these players are winners already.”
What can England expect from Iceland?
BBC Sport’s Paul Fletcher in Paris
Roy Hodgson should know what to expect when his team play Iceland – after all they have been unchanged for all three of their games in France.
They have averaged 29% possession so far, attempted the lowest number of dribbles in the group stage, made the second-lowest number of successful passes and had the joint second-lowest numbers of shots.
It all hints at Hodgson’s side facing another test against a defensively-orientated side. England’s ability to carve open an opponent faces a significant examination; their supposedly suspect defence will perhaps be under less pressure.
That said, captain Aron Gunnarsson will look to launch balls into the England box with long throws whenever possible – meaning that some test of England’s defending in aerial battles can be expected.
Iceland play a rigid 4-4-2. They are physical and well-organised and have enough craft to slow the game down.
Big, robust and incredibly determined – striker Jon Dadi Bodvarsson tweeted that he was “ready to run until my lungs give out” before their game against Austria and duly scored his first goal in 20 appearances. It is this type of spirit that epitomises his team and which England must overcome in Nice.
A dentist and a Eurovision video director
- Iceland is the smallest nation to take part at a European Championship or World Cup. With a population of 330,000, it has as many people as Leicester.
- With no professional clubs in Iceland, all 23 players ply their trade abroad. Former Chelsea and Barcelona forward Eidur Gudjohnsen, now aged 37, is the most notable name, along with British-based players Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea), Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff) and Johann Gudmundsson (Charlton).
- Penalties. A word which strikes fear into all England fans. But they will be hoping Iceland’s inexperience in these nerve-jangling situations is a positive. Iceland have never taken part in a penalty shootout.
- Iceland do have one veteran of a European tournament. Sort of. That’s because goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson directed the video for the country’s 2012 Eurovision entry. Incidentally, neither Iceland or Great Britain gave each other any points in that contest – a 0-0 stalemate if you like.