Euro 2016

Iceland won't roll over for Roy or England

ANNECY-LE-VIEUX • Lars Lagerback first met Roy Hodgson 40 years ago when they were rival coaches in Sweden and counts him as a good friend.

But the co-coach of Iceland has no qualms about plotting the defeat that could earn the England manager the sack.

Any friendship will be put aside when their teams meet on Monday, with Hodgson knowing defeat in the round of 16 against the tournament's biggest underdogs will, in all likelihood, cost him his job.

"That's the reality in football today," admitted Lagerback, 67, who previously spent more than a decade as coach of Sweden, boasting an unbeaten record of two wins and four draws in six matches against England.

"If you lose and you're not playing well enough, there's always a risk you'll get the sack, especially if there are high expectations - and in England, you always have big expectations for the national team. Maybe sometimes too high.

"But it's not difficult for me to think that Roy could be sacked if we win. You go into a game and ,even if you know the other coach, or you had 10 years together in another team, you always want to win."

Heimir Hallgrimsson, Iceland's other coach, agrees. "I wouldn't want to be Roy Hodgson if he lost to Iceland," he said.

Centre-back Ragnar Sigurdsson has warned Iceland will not back down when facing England .

"We have grown up watching the Premier League, and I have always wanted to play against England," he said.

"We may not have players who all play for Barcelona and Real Madrid - but I believe we can beat England.

"Our faith and belief is what has got us so far - and some Icelandic pride. We do not back down from anyone, and that team spirit and belief help us a lot."

During qualification for the tournament, Iceland beat the Netherlands home and away, plus the Czech Republic and Turkey at home.

Sigurdsson pointed to this record against the more experienced sides.

"We have beaten a lot of good countries and people are not surprised any more, but it is still a great achievement to get into the last 16," the 30-year-old defender said.

"We will not be overawed by England - even if we grew up watching English players, it was not these new guys.

"We don't care, and will give it everything we have got."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2016, with the headline 'Iceland won't roll over for Roy or England'. Print Edition | Subscribe