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Stephen Hunt's Analysis Of England/Iceland Is Absolutely Spot-On

Stephen Hunt's Analysis Of England/Iceland Is Absolutely Spot-On
By Gavin Cooney Updated

The Sunday Independent are consistently excellent in their hiring of sports columnists, and they have struck gold once again with the inches afforded to Stephen Hunt. A lesser columnist than Hunt would describe his arrival on the Irish sports media as a "breath of fresh-air". Hunt would not describe it as thus, and not through a sense of modesty, but you feel he has the same relationship with cliches as Giovanni Trapattoni has with the importance of passing through midfield.

As the English media descended into hysteria over their nation's defeat to Iceland, they displayed the usual ironic mypoia which is their hallmark. As the media criticised their national team as being arrogant in dismissing Iceland as a challenge, the reports attacked England's failings while in turn dismissing Iceland's superb performance.

Hunt's analysis focuses on the most remarkable element of Iceland's performance: how cool they were. Iceland picked England apart and made it look like the most natural thing in the world as England ran around as headless turkeys who have accidentally led their country into voting for Christmas.

Iceland, meanwhile, kept their calm as if they had been playing at this level all their lives, playing as if they were entitled to be at this level rather than acting like they were. Here is Hunt on Iceland:

Iceland's goalkeeper made a mistake for Wayne Rooney's penalty but they didn't panic or shout or let their heads drop. They stayed focussed...

I've played with a few Icelandic players and they they have always been very strong-minded, and very good with people. There's no over-aggressiveness. There's a steel to them.

It helps when you get on that pitch in the heat of the battle. They were never flustered, despite playing against what some have admitted are their idols, and England never once unnerved them. They were hitting the English players hard but picking them up, not revelling in it.

Compare the Icelandic 'keeper -who dropped as much of a bollock as Joe Hart - to the English 'keeper, who was bashing walls and roaring in the pre-game tunnel, and was so emotionally wound up he gave an interview after the game to apologise to an entire nation for making a mistake. The Icelandic players treated mistakes as simply something that happens, as part of life, whereas the English players, in the opinion of Hunt, "bottled it".

Hunt has probed the strange paradox of the English players and of international football in general: the pitch and the plane of the game is totally different to club players, and English players are a million miles from it.

There is loads in Hunt's column, you can read it in the Sunday Independent.

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See Also: Didi Hamann Has Done It Again With His Ruthless Dissection Of The State Of English Football

See Also: Martin O'Neill Did Not Hold Back With His Opinion Of UEFA's Organisation Of Euro 2016


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