Iceland players have chance to ‘change their lives’ with victory over England

Iceland Training - EURO 2016

The lives of Iceland’s players will “change forever” if they force their way into the quarter‑finals of the European Championship at England’s expense, according to their joint‑manager Heimir Hallgrimsson, who has urged his side to seize the opportunity to make history. Icelandhave players with Premier League experience such as Gylfi Sigurdsson and Eidur Gudjohnsen and their other joint-manager, Lars Lagerback, was unbeaten in six meetings with England while coaching Sweden.

The achievement in emerging from Group F, secured with a last‑minute victory against Austria at the Stade de France on Wednesday, has been one of the notable stories to emerge from Euro 2016. “And we’ve said previously that this game is a win‑win game for us,” Hallgrimsson said. “These players have already won the hearts of all Icelandic people for their performances so far. With a good performance against England tomorrow, they’ll always be winners in my book.

“On the other hand, if we beat England, their lives will change forever and significantly. Icelandic football will go up in reputation around the world, and the way we approach football will be different. It’ll all look different for us. We always say that if you want the best out of life, you have to be ready when the chance is there for you. There aren’t bigger chances than this for Icelandic football. It’s just up to the players to play tomorrow and hopefully we will beat England. But whichever way this goes, these players are winners already.”

Iceland, ranked 34 in the world, are in their first major finals and have confronted England only twice, failing to win on both occasions, with their last meeting a 6-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium in 2004.

Hallgrimsson was asked by a Swedish journalist about the Cod Wars over fishing rights in the North Athlantic – three disputes which strained relations between Iceland and the United Kingdom between 1958 and 1976 – and suggested his country was not cut out for conflict. “This was the only time Iceland went to war,” he said. “We are too small to have an army and lack manpower, so we would be easily beaten rather quickly. So these guys are the Icelandic army. That’s why everyone is supporting them.”

“To play against England and to do it in the final 16? I’ve dreamed about this since I was a kid,” said Sigurdsson, who will come up against three former clubmates at Tottenham Hotspur in Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker. “It’s a very important game for the team and for the country as well. I’m playing against my former team‑mates in an international game, but more importantly I’m playing England in a last-16 game. To be at this stage with Iceland, with the chance to get to a quarter-final, is incredible. We’re full of excitement.

“England probably haven’t played their best football and they’re still in the last 16, which shows how strong their squad is. Look at their squad, they’ve got some very good players: strikers who have been scoring goals for fun in the last couple of years; experienced players as well. Hopefully we can keep them quiet.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Dominic Fifield in Nice, for The Guardian on Sunday 26th June 2016 17.49 Europe/London

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