England to meet old foe in form of Iceland coach

England will be facing an old foe when it meets Iceland at the European Championship.

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England will be facing an old foe when it meets Iceland at the European Championship on Monday.

Lars Lagerback, one half of the coaching team behind Iceland’s advance to the round of 16, knows all about frustrating England. The Swede never tasted defeat in six games against England while on his national team’s coaching staff between 1998 and 2006. Twice at successive World Cups in 2002 and 2006, Sweden and England ground out draws.

“One part of having good results against England with Sweden that’s similar to Iceland is that everybody in Sweden knows the English football and the players,” Lagerback said. “It’s a similar situation here I think. It could help a little bit I think in the mental part of the game that they know them very well.”

Lagerback will have noticed that England has struggled at Euro 2016 against determined defending during its draws with Russia and Slovakia, and will likely opt for a similar template in Monday’s match.

“I hope we can close them down even better than the other teams have done,” Lagerback said. Since his appointment as Iceland coach in 2011, Lagerback has built from the back to stop Iceland being easy prey for bigger European teams. Last time Iceland faced England, it lost 6-1 in a game current England captain Wayne Rooney scored two.

So far in France, Iceland’s new defensive virtues have helped weather an onslaught from Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in a 1-1 draw in the group stage. And against Austria, the team had to defend for long stretches before a late counter-attack resulted in a 2-1 victory for Iceland. Iceland’s players know their English opponents well, not least because the Premier League is where some of them earn their living.

“I have dreamed about this since I was a kid, to play against England,” midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson said. “Finally to be at this stage with Iceland and to have the chance to get to the quarterfinal is just incredible.”

The Swansea City midfielder will be facing three “good friends” from his time at Tottenham Hotspur - Danny Rose, Kyle Walker and Harry Kane. Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson has also played in the Premier League for Cardiff City, while veteran striker Eidur Gudjohnsen won two Premier League titles with Chelsea. Regardless of the result, Monday’s game will be a new chapter in Iceland’s football saga, says Heimir Halgrimsson, Lagerback’s co-coach.

“If you want the best out of life you have to be ready when the chance is there for you, and I don’t think there are bigger chances than this for Icelandic football,” he said. “Whichever way it goes, these players are winners already.”