Corners have been a source of frustration for England fans at Euro 2016 with the Three Lions finding numerous ways to spare the opposition goalkeeper from coming under threat. But that might be about to change against Iceland and there’s value in splitting a point between Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling to score the opening goal against the North Atlantic minnows.
Roy Hodgson’s men have had 26 flag kicks so far - the third-highest total across the group stages - but the majority have been squandered, whether it was Harry Kane clearing a crowded box and sparking a chase towards the far touchline, Jordan Henderson failing to beat the first man or the various short corner routines that amounted to very little.
But in between all of that was Wayne Rooney against Wales. He took all nine corners in the game against Chris Coleman’s men and the deliveries were pretty good, all nine of them landing outside the six-yard box - thus, evading the goalkeeper - but ahead of the penalty spot and between the posts, in what you might be inclined to call the danger zone.
Rooney was then rested for the game against Slovakia but was back on corners when appearing as a second-half substitute, taking five of the last six in Saint-Etienne to much the same standard. In short, the problem now rests with those attacking the ball, not with the taker himself, but 28/1 Smalling and 33/1 Cahill have been the most dangerous presence and deserved to be chanced.
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Much has been made of England dominating possession and whether it counts for much against passive opposition, the more scathing observers suggesting the team have been bereft of guile in open play. It has felt that way in patches but then you look back on the chances created against both Russia and Slovakia and it could quite easily have amounted to nine points.
Either way, the soul-searching serves only to put greater emphasis on set pieces and it’s easy to underestimate just how reliant England have been on this source of goals in tournaments past. Brazil 2014 was the first time since Euro 1992 that the Three Lions had failed to register at least one goal at a major finals whereby somebody pounced inside the box on the end of a set play.
Iceland have been sensational to reach this point and this clash should follow much the same pattern as both sides' previous three outings. Lars Lagerback’s men have averaged just 34.3 per cent possession and will sit deep, looking to soak up pressure and break away on three or four occasions over the 90 minutes, making those opportunities count if they can.
It has worked a treat so far but only four teams covered more distance (333km) than Iceland in the group stages, despite them naming the same starting 11 for all three matches. And that surely has to count against them here, especially when you consider how Hodgson rotated in his last game, while those who played also benefit from an extra two days rest.
Goals have been in short supply at this tournament so far but if the Three Lions force an early breakthrough, they could quite feasibly post one of the most convincing wins to date. As such, the 10/3 available on England to score over 2.5 goals is another bet worth having. With an average of 21 shots per game, you could make a case for it on regression alone.
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