Roy Hodgson fears an embarrassing Euro 2016 exit unless England buck up their ideas in front of goal.
Emerging unbeaten in Group B was not without its frustrations given England’s last-gasp win against Wales was book-ended by frustrating draws against Russia and Slovakia.
That inability to find the net resulted in England progressing as runners-up, meaning sides such as France, Spain and Germany could now block their path to the final.
It is a situation about which Hodgson remains philosophical, but the frustration over his side’s lack of cutting edge is clear, warning a repeat could lead to them suffering a humiliating last-16 exit at the hands of Iceland, the smallest country to ever play at a major tournament.
“I’m happy with the work they’re doing,” Hodgson said of his attackers. “I am just unhappy that the dominance is not leading to the goals. Obviously we have to be better in that area and everyone knows it because if we don’t score goals we can’t continue in the competition. It’s no good.
“You don’t get prizes for possession, you don’t get prizes for the most corners, you don’t get prizes for having the best of the play. You get prizes if you win.
“And really our performance against Wales was no better than our performance against Slovakia or Russia.
“Arguably in many areas it perhaps wasn’t even as good. But we won so that was a great game and the other two were bad games. That’s how it is. We know that.
“And now it’s very simple: if we don’t win now, we go home. So we had better start making sure we score our goalscoring chances.”
Bowing out to a country of 330,000 would send shockwaves around the footballing world, but what Iceland lack in depth they make up for in talent and hard work – something Hodgson has highlighted to his players.
The England boss knows better than most the threat they pose having being friends with counterpart Lars Lagerback for 40 years, although it remains to be seen whether the former Sweden coach sets his team up for another battle of attrition.
Hodgson has faith his team will cope with whatever is thrown at them in Nice, despite his heavily-rotated side having failed to find a way past Slovakia in St Etienne last Monday.
The 68-year-old does not regret the decision to make six alterations, pointing to the changes to the side that ended against Wales, Jordan Henderson’s display and the fact full-backs Danny Rose and Kyle Walker are used to being rotated at Tottenham.
Hodgson was testy as he often accepts “so many nonsenses” that are said to or about him, with the criticism about starting captain and all-time top scorer Wayne Rooney on the bench particularly sticking in the craw.
“That is amusing to me because of all the players that I’ve actually had to stand up and put my neck on the line and defend,” Hodgson bristled.
“I’ve had to stick my chin out and say ‘I don’t care what anyone else thinks – Wayne Rooney is going to the Euros, Wayne Rooney is our captain and Wayne Rooney going to play’.
“And now we didn’t score against Slovakia despite 29 shots and 15 corners and God knows what else because Wayne Rooney didn’t play more than 30 minutes.
“Well, excuse me, I find it hard to go along with that line of argument, that I should now regret the fact that I didn’t start with Rooney or that I didn’t start with (Harry) Kane and (Raheem) Sterling, who if I had started with them and lost the game I would have been criticised.
“The criticism is very simple. At the end of the game you can play well or you can play badly.
“We won all our three preparation games. I don’t think we played particularly well in any of the three but we won them, so everyone was hunky dory and fine.
“Here, in my opinion, we’ve played better. I think it bodes well for the future, what we’re doing here.
“But we haven’t won, so therefore results are bad so therefore we are bad. That’s life. I accept it.
“I’m not trying to gloss over that in any way. But I can’t be as facile as to say: ‘Yeah, you’re right, I wish to God now we had played Wayne Rooney’.
“I don’t know if we’d played Wayne Rooney the score would have been any different. It wasn’t when he came on.”