Football

Iceland feel no pressure against France in quarter-finals

After stunning win over English, Vikings turn focus on French

Iceland's co-coach Heimir Hallgrimsson says French swimmer Yannick Agnel's promise to swim around the Nordic island if the minnows win Euro 2016 would be chilly business.

France's Olympic 200m freestyle champion joked on Twitter that he will swim around Iceland - a distance of 2,008km - if Hallgrimsson's side win the Euro 2016.

Having stunned England with a 2-1 shock victory in the last 16, Iceland now turn their sights on hosts France for a place in the semi-finals.

They face the French in Paris on Sunday in the quarter-finals and another upset result would take Agnel a step closer to his chilly mammoth dip.

Hallgrimsson, who combines his role as co-coach alongside Lars Lagerback with his job as a dentist in Iceland, could only smile when asked about the Frenchman's promise.

"I wouldn't recommend it, but that is possible, although he'll have to pick the right weather," said the Iceland coach.

Euro 2016 fever has gripped the tiny North Atlantic nation and 10 per cent of their 330,000 population is in France supporting their team.

With swelling numbers of Iceland fans set to descend on Paris for Sunday's sold-out match at the Stade de France, some media have dubbed it 'the continuing Viking invasion'.

The last time Vikings came to Paris, France's modern-day capital was held under siege from 885-886 after Nordic warriors sailed up the Seine.

Hallgrimsson says Sunday's invasion of Paris by Nordic football fans promises to be a much more peaceful affair.

The team hope to harness their underdog status to put the psychological pressure on the French.

"The pressure was always so much more on England - that was a game for them to lose," said Hallgrimsson.

"It's exactly the same against France. We don't have the pressure of the world (on us) that we need to win the game.

"The world won't go crazy if we don't beat France, which of course we want to do, so that's a big benefit to us."

Iceland's co-coaches were clearly in a relaxed frame of mind, with plenty of laughing in yesterday's press conference.

Having seen unfancied Leicester City win last season's English Premier League title, Hallgrimsson says the Iceland squad also benefit from playing without the pressure of expectations.

"I really would like things to end like they did with Leicester City, if you want to talk about them," he said. "They played to their strengths and that is what we are trying to do.

"There is the same sort of team spirt.

"Maybe the players have less individual quality.

"If you compare the French to us, most of their players play regular Champions League football while few of ours have ever done."

Lagerback will step down after Euro 2016, with Hallgrimsson becoming head coach, and the pair are revelling in their success.

But they are fully aware of the task ahead.

"The French keep on going until the end, because they have a lot of possession and tire their opponents out," said Hallgrimsson.

"They tend to hit their opponents with late goals, which shows us that we have to concentrate for the full 90 minutes." - AFP.


The world won’t go crazy if we don’t beat France, which of course we want to do, so that’s a big benefit to us.

- Iceland co-coach Heimir Hallgrimsson

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