Iceland football team owe ‘great debt’ to coach, says Hodgson

Nice (France) (AFP) – England manager Roy Hodgson said Iceland owe a “great debt” to coach Lars Lagerback who he said he had formed a special bond with during his years spent in Sweden.

“They owe a great debt to Lars Lagerback and (long-time associate) Roland Andersson,” Hodgson said ahead of England’s last-16 showdown with the Nordic surprise packets in Nice on Monday. 

“Their experience and wisdom, and ability to organise a team, get the maximum out of a group of players and engender a work ethic, of working for each other which isn’t seen every day, though we are seeing it more in this tournament. They owe a lot to that,” Hodgson told reporters.  

“I don’t know the young Icelandic coach (Heimir Hallgrimsson) but I’m sure he’s played a big part as well,” he added.

Hodgson, 68, has a special connection to Nordic football having moved to Sweden to manage Halmstad in 1976. He spent 12 years in the country.

During that period he met Lagerback who began his own coaching career in the late 1970s. 

The 67-year-old Swede said earlier that Hodgson had a “lot of influence in Swedish coach education”.

“Lars is one of a group of people, slightly younger than myself, who I met at the time and he embraced the type of football (English manager Bob Houghton) and I were playing at the time,” Hodgson said.

“They liked it and took it on board. You develop a special bond with those who liked it,” he said.

Lagerback later took Sweden to five major finals and also coached Nigeria at the 2010 World Cup. 

“I have ultimate respect for what (Lagerback has) done for Swedish football,” Hodgson said. 

“His chances of a statue are a damn sight greater than mine,” he added.

Lagerback achieved the unthinkable in securing qualification for Euro 2016 for Iceland, the island nation with a population of 330,000.

“The size of the country is just a number,” added England captain Wayne Rooney.

“They put the same number of players on the pitch as us, so its a fair contest in that respect”.

Hodgson said he expected a “very difficult” game on Monday.

“We will have to accept the title as favourites, they go in as underdogs,” he said.

“The (Icelandic) character, their determination and ability to survive through hardships, I’m certain that’s been a major factor in their progress”.

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