Fairytale like no other: Iceland want to emulate Leicester in Euro 2016

  • Reuters, Annecy, France
  • Updated: Jun 29, 2016 18:05 IST
Iceland’s national football team ahead of their Euro 2016 knockout stage clash against England. (Reuters Photo)

Surprise Euro 2016 quarterfinalists Iceland want a fairytale ending to their run, like the one that Leicester City enjoyed when they stunned the football world by clinching the Premier League title this season, team coaches said on Wednesday.

Leicester, with no big names in the squad, finished ahead of far more illustrious English clubs in what was one of the biggest upsets in club football.

Iceland, in their first major tournament, have already taken the competition by storm, advancing past the group stage and then beating England 2-1 on Monday to set up a quarterfinal clash with hosts France.

“I think I would like it to end like it ended with Leicester City,” Iceland joint coach Heimir Hallgrimsson told reporters. “They played on their strengths and we are trying to play on our strengths.

“There is the same team spirit in both teams. We are willing to work for each other.”

While Iceland had already exceeded expectations, they were ready to face France in much the same way as they did England.

“This was a game for them (England) to lose. All the pressure was on England,” Hallgrimsson said. “They mocked us a bit before the game but we had nothing to lose. When you go into a game like that, you can be relaxed and show your best.”

“Against France, we can go relaxed and show our best. We don’t have the pressure of the entire world that we need to win this game. We want to win but we don’t absolutely need to. That is a big benefit for us.”

Hallgrimsson and joint coach Lars Lagerback warned, however, that France would be keeping up the pressure until the end.

“That is why they are scoring at the end of games,” Hallgrimsson said. “Because they are really tiring their opponents. Everybody is playing against France with that in mind, not to concede.”

“They keep on going until the end. They tire their opponents and at the end of the games, they score vital goals. We have to concentrate the whole game, not 90 minutes but 95-96 minutes against France.”

The euphoria over England’s victory had had a brief impact on discipline, Lagerback said, with some players arriving late for dinner on Tuesday and the Swede having to remind them of their responsibilities.

“It was a bit sloppy. A few of the guys were late to dinner. I told them: ‘Don’t think you are over the hill because you beat the English’,” Lagerback said. “On and off the pitch we have to be 100% professional.”

“Twenty minutes late is disrespectful for the team,” said the former Sweden coach.

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