Coach ral­lies Ice­landic ‘army’ ahead of po­ten­tially life-changing last-16 clash

The Herald - Herald Sport - - EURO 2016 - DEREK MILLER

ICE­LAND coach Heimir Hall­grims­son has ral­lied his “Ice­landic army” ahead of Mon­day’s po­ten­tially life-changing con­test against Eng­land.

Mak­ing it to the fi­nals of Euro 2016 was an in­cred­i­ble achieve­ment in it­self for a coun­try with a pop­u­la­tion of just 330,000 and where out­door foot­ball is im­pos­si­ble for large chunks of the year due to the freez­ing con­di­tions.

The small­est na­tion to ever grace a ma­jor tour­na­ment is now pre­par­ing to take on the coun­try that gave birth to foot­ball, ar­riv­ing in Nice dream­ing of giv­ing their fairy­tale an­other chap­ter.

Ice­land are ex­cited and un­bur­dened, but know over­com­ing Eng­land will change their coun­try for­ever.

“We’ve said pre­vi­ously that this game is a win-win game,” co-coach Hall­grims­son, who is also a qual­i­fied den­tist, said on the eve of the match.

“They have al­ready won the hearts of all Ice­landic peo­ple for their per­for­mances.

“With a good per­for­mance against Eng­land tomorrow, they’ll al­ways be win­ners in my book.

“On the other hand, if we beat Eng­land [the play­ers’] lives will change, all our lives will change, sig­nif­i­cantly.

“Ice­landic foot­ball will go up in rep­u­ta­tion and the way we ap­proach foot­ball will be dif­fer­ent.

“If you want the best out of life, you have to be ready when the chance is there for you and I don’t think there are big­ger chances than this for Ice­landic foot­ball. “Hope­fully we will beat Eng­land. “Whichever way this goes, these play­ers are win­ners al­ready and I am hop­ing for a good per­for­mance.”

A dis­ci­plined, fo­cused and co­he­sive unit, Ice­land have proven their abil­ity to up­set the es­tab­lish­ment both in qual­i­fy­ing for France and upon ar­rival.

There is a to­geth­er­ness borne out of the is­land’s size and the fact so many of the group came through to­gether, cre­at­ing a spirit Hall­grims­son has likened to the near­est thing Ice­land has to an army.

The ‘Cod War’ was brought up in the pre-match press con­fer­ence – a pe­riod be­tween the 1950s and 1970s which peaked when Bri­tish gun­boats mo­bilised to ward off Ice­landic trawlers in dis­puted wa­ters – and the co-coach knows their best chance of win­ning is on the pitch.

“I think it was the only time Ice­land has gone to war,” Hall­grims­son said with a smile. “We are too few to have an army. “So these guys are the Ice­landic army, that’s why ev­ery­one is sup­port­ing them.”

There is cer­tainly no lack of bat­tling spirit on the field, with Ice­land solid at the back, adept at break­ing and well drilled from set-pieces.

Hall­grims­son, who will take over sole con­trol of the team when Swedish co-coach Lars Lager­back re­tires af­ter Euro 2016, added: “What we have to con­cen­trate on is not to con­cede against Eng­land and the day will be good [if we don’t].”

RAL­LY­ING THE TROOPS: Ice­land coach Heimir Hall­grims­son

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.