France realise how dangerous Iceland can be from long throw-ins and have been working on ways to counter that weapon when they face the surprise package of Euro 2016 in the quarter-finals on Sunday, coach Didier Deschamps said on the eve of the match.
Deschamps, who has a reputation for being a shrewd tactician, is well aware that Iceland have created two goals from throws straight into the penalty area during their fairytale run to the last eight.
“We know they often use low, straight throw-ins with well-defined positioning because that’s something they’ve been repeating match after match,” Deschamps told a news conference at the Stade de France where the game will take place.
“We will take measures to limit the effect of that aspect of their game,” he added. “When they have a throw-in 30 or 40 metres from goal, it’s the equivalent of a set piece.”
While more prestigious sides often concentrate on possession and passing, Iceland are first and foremost a physical, compact outfit who know how to make the most of their own artillery, Deschamps said.
“They know they are not going to get that many corners in a game and they compensate that by using the throw-in as a set piece,” he said.
“They weigh on your defence with two tall strikers who put you under a lot of pressure,” the France coach added. “I can’t make my own players taller by giving them a few more centimetres but we do have some who can fight for high balls”.
Iceland, however, should not be reduced to long throws and aerial duels, Deschamps said.
“They have quality players who can also play on the ground with combinations,” he said.
“My players have been watching their games and perfectly know that they did not get to that stage by accident. They deserve to be where they are.”
Deschamps, who has kept tinkering with his squad since the start of the tournament, will be forced to rejig once again with centre back Adil Rami and holding midfielder N’Golo Kante both suspended.
The France coach, who is expected to replace them with Samuel Umtiti and Yohan Cabaye respectively, has been alternating between a 4-3-3 system and a 4-2-3-1 formation in earlier matches.
The latter might be the better option against opponents likely to shut up shop at the back but Deschamps was careful not to get drawn.
“Whatever formation you go for, it’s the spirit you show that counts,” he said.