Nordic side's coach Lagerback defends tactics

Iceland coach Lars Lagerback during a training session at the team's camp in Annecy, ahead of the quarter-final match against France today.
Iceland coach Lars Lagerback during a training session at the team's camp in Annecy, ahead of the quarter-final match against France today. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MARSEILLE • Iceland's joint coach Lars Lagerback has dismissed suggestions that his team are just a well-oiled defensive unit, pointing out that by playing two strikers, they had more potency than some other nations.

The islanders have been the fairy tale of Euro 2016, knocking out England in the last 16 to qualify for a dream quarter-final with hosts France in Paris today.

Having scored six goals - as many as France in their four opening matches - the tiniest nation in the competition has proved that they can be effective despite having the least possession of the remaining teams in the tournament.

"When we talk of the defensive aspect, we use all our players and sometimes we ask a little too much of our forwards," Lagerback told French daily L'Equipe.

"In football, it's difficult to score goals so, if we can keep our opponents from scoring, then we give ourselves every chance of winning.

"So we're very organised and each player has a precise role and fulfils it extremely well."

However, what makes Lagerback's defensive bloc different to some of the other smaller nations such as Albania and Northern Ireland is the decision to play with two strikers in a 4-4-2 formation.

Lagerback argued that if his team were as defensive as some suggest, then he would have gone for a 4-5-1 or 5-3-2 system.

Instead, he and fellow coach Heimir Hallgrimsson have pushed two men higher up to keep opponents on their toes and break quickly when needed.

"The statistics show that a large majority of goals are scored from inside the box, so that's where you need the ball and that's where you need the most players," he said.

"When your players are individually not as good as your opponents, having two strikers gives you a better chance of creating chances."

When asked about weaknesses in the French game, Lagerback said he thought the style of play could perhaps be exploited by his team.

"I wouldn't talk of weaknesses, but a style and attitude that is quite offensive and that's something we could use," he said.

"The most important is what we will be able to do when we recover the ball and their players are out of position."

Winger Jon Dadi Bodvarsson expects the hosts to provide tougher opposition than England.

"France play with more tempo on the ball and therefore it might be harder to defend," he said.

"They have a very good change of pace and are quick. They have some good individuals and we just have to be ready for that."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 03, 2016, with the headline 'Nordic side's coach Lagerback defends tactics'. Print Edition | Subscribe