Iceland turn underdog guns on France

Iceland's midfielder Aron Gunnarsson and team mates celebrate after the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016.   Iceland won the match 1-2. / AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOIS

Iceland’s midfielder Aron Gunnarsson and team mates celebrate after the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between England and Iceland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 27, 2016.<br />Iceland won the match 1-2. / AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOIS

England-slayers Iceland hope to harness their underdog status to put the psychological pressure on Euro 2016 hosts France in Sunday’s quarter-final.

“The pressure was always so much more on England – that was a game for them to lose,” said Heimir Hallgrimsson, who combines his role as co-coach alongside Lars Lagerback with his job as a dentist.

“It’s exactly the same against France,” he added.

After pulling off one of the biggest shocks in football with their 2-1 win over England, Iceland’s fairytale takes them next to a sold-out Stade de France.

Hallgrimsson has described the stunning victory in Iceland’s first appearance at a major tournament as ‘life-changing’ and says his minnows will head to Paris in the same spirit.

Hallgrimsson hopes the pressure on Didier Deschamps’ France to beat unfancied Iceland will play into his hands again.

“When you can go into a game like that, you just need to show what you can do, relax and enjoy doing your best.

“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.”

Euro 2016 fever has gripped the tiny Nordic nation and a big chunk of the 330,000 population is in France supporting their team.

Iceland’s co-coaches are in a relaxed frame of mind.

There was plenty of laughing in Wednesday’s press conference, which opened with Hallgrimsson jokingly asking a Swedish reporter about Iceland’s chances against France.

“It’s always a benefit to be the underdog,” said Lagerback.

“France have really high expectations on them.

“Just like it was against England, (for them) if you can’t beat Iceland, it’s not good.”

Having seen unfancied Leicester City win last season’s English 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.”

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