Football

Iceland coach: We have bite

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, his side had more potency than some other nations.

The islanders have been the fairy-tale story of Euro 2016, knocking out England in the last 16 to qualify for a dream quarter-final with hosts France in Paris tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

Having scored six goals - as many as France in their four opening matches - the tiniest nation in the competition have 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," said Lagerback.

"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 block different to some of the other smaller nations in the tournament, such as Albania or 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 have suggested, 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 quickly break 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... and even if one of the two has come back to defend, we want him to surge back up the field as quickly as possible when we recover the ball."

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

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

"Most importantly is what we will be able to do when we recover the ball and their players are out of position. Against England, we improved in that domain and, against France, we will need to improve that again."

Iceland have a clean bill of health, with captain and long-throw specialist Aron Gunnarsson returning to training on Friday.

While his team are injury free, one concern for the coach is that nine players are a booking away from a suspension ahead of the game against France. - Reuters.

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