Iceland captain Gunnarsson fit for Austria game
By Matt Smith
PARIS (Reuters) - Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson has declared himself fit for their final Euro 2016 group game against Austria on Wednesday, while the islanders' joint coach Lars Lagerback warned their more illustrious opponents are under the greater pressure.
Both teams can qualify from Group F for the last-16, although Iceland’s two draws put the tournament debutants a point ahead of Austria, who have scored no goals in their two matches.
Gunnarsson had been struggling with a groin injury and was substituted during Iceland’s 1-1 draw with Hungary, putting his participation at the Parc des Princes in doubt.
“I will be 100 percent tomorrow,” Gunnarsson told a news conference.
A win, and perhaps a point, will be sufficient to put Iceland into the knockout rounds, so the onus is on Austria.
“The Austrian team are under bigger pressure, had higher expectations both inside the group and also in Austria,” said Lagerback, who co-manages the team with Heimir Hallgrimsson.
“I think Austria can expect a rather tough game.”
Lagerback, who oversaw his native Sweden’s qualification for five major tournaments in a nine-year spell as coach until 2009, praised his players’ performances so far.
Yet he also highlighted ways they could do better following two matches in which they have averaged 33.5 percent possession, the lowest at the Euros.
“We need more variation in the way we play. We’re too keen to get forward very quickly,” added Lagerback.
“We want to improve the attacking part of the game, otherwise I think the players have done great in the first two matches. The mental strength and the way they’ve handled the games has been absolutely marvellous.”
Gunnarsson said Iceland’s first taste of tournament football had made him and his team mates determined to prolong their participation at Euro 2016.
“It has been a wonderful experience, getting the interest we deserve because we fought hard to get where we are,” added Gunnarsson.
“It started when we were young boys, we are here now but that’s not enough in our eyes.”
(Reporting by Matt Smith; Editing by Toby Davis)