Iceland coach says two strikers give his side extra bite
By John Irish
MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - Iceland's joint coach Lars Lagerback dismissed suggestions on Friday that his team were 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 fairytale story of Euro 2016, knocking out England in the last 16 to qualify for a dream quarter-final with hosts France in Paris on Sunday.
Having scored six goals - as many as France in their four opening matches - the tiniest nation in the competition has proved that it 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," Lars lagerback told French daily L'Equipe.
"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 bloc 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 suggest 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 he thought the style of play could perhaps be exploited by his team.
"I wouldn't talk of weaknesses, but a style and attitude that is quite offensive and that's something we could use," he said.
"The most important 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," he said.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)