Lars Lagerbäck's pre-match presser: Iceland ready to make history against England

The Nordic nation are by no means looking at Monday's game as a daunting task.

Lars Lagerbäck's pre-match presser: Iceland ready to make history against England
Lars Lagerbäck will hope that the Icelandic dream isn't set to come to an end on Monday. (Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

A lot has been made of the expansion at Euro 2016, with many voicing the opinion that teams should not be rewarded for a third-placed finish in the group stages.

With Portugal having reached the last eight without winning any of their four games in 90 minutes, the view is an understandable one, while others simply believe that it means there is less quality in the knockout rounds, with those teams having not finished in the top two for a reason.

While all these criticisms are launched though, one lower-ranked team who have certainly earned their place in the next round are Iceland, having beaten Portugal and Austria to second place in Group F.

Their reward is a clash with England on Monday night, and it is one that they are relishing.

All the pressure is on the Three Lions, but Iceland aren't in the last 16 to make up the numbers and will be a much trickier opponent than many expect.

No fear, just excitement

While the rankings suggest this will be a daunting task for Strákarnir okkar, their attitude in the build-up suggests that they are looking at the game in any way but that.

Speaking to the press on Sunday, manager Lars Lagerbäck described the atmosphere around the team as "very, very good" heading into the match.

Furthermore, star man Gylfi Sigurdsson expressed his delight with a little rest in between this game and the Austria win, saying: "Physically I feel really good. We had a few days to recover," before turning his attention to England.

"I've dreamed about playing against England since I was a kid," said Sigurdsson. The encounter will be even more exciting for him too, as he will face not only regular Premier League opponents of his, but players he formerly played with at Tottenham Hotspur.

"I'm looking forward to playing against former teammates," he said, "but more against England at this stage with Iceland," with this to be his nation's biggest game in history.

Gylfi Sigurdsson and his Icelandic teammates have enjoyed the benefits of a few days off ahead of their last 16 tie. (Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Gylfi Sigurdsson and his Icelandic teammates have enjoyed the benefits of a few days off ahead of their last 16 tie. (Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Lagerbäck focused on now, not then

One of the main talking points coming into this game has been Lagerbäck himself and his terrific record against the English.

The Swedish coach, who has also managed Nigeria at international level as well as Iceland and his home nation, has never suffered defeat to the Three Lions in six meetings with them.

However, he himself is not too bothered about the past, saying "it doesn't matter much."

What does matter is knowing how to get the results though, and he says this comes from the players knowing the English players, as was the case with Sweden.

Sigurdsson himself certainly knows the likes of Harry Kane and Kyle Walker well, while captain Aron Gunnarsson has played in the Premier League with Cardiff CityJohann Berg Gudmundsson also plies his trade in England with Charlton Athletic, though has only ever played in the Championship with them.

Still, with many of the Icelanders huge fans of the Three Lions and the Premier League, they know the players and their style very well.

Chance to make history

Monday night presents Iceland with the opportunity to give the country their biggest footballing moment, and they know it.

They believe they are more than capable of achieving something incredible too, as they aim to reach the quarter-finals on their major tournament debut.

Gunnarsson was another who attended the press conference, and he says the team are looking to use the energy the fans give them "in the best way."

Lagerbäck, meanwhile is looking to surpass what he calls his "greatest" achievement; getting Sweden to the quarter-finals at Euro 2004. He says that his work with Iceland doesn't match that just yet, although it is "special," but getting the Nordic nation to the same stage would surely beat doing so with a bigger, more established country.

With England having not hit the heights they are capable of yet either, Lagerbäck's chances of doing so are far from slim

"England probably haven't played their best football," said Sigurdsson, but he did recognise the quality the Three Lions have. "They're in the last 16. They have players playing for fun, and experience too," he added.

The opportunity is there tomorrow for these Iceland players to write their names in history; more so than they have already done. They have achieved so much already by reaching the last 16, but there is the possibility for so much more.

The significance of the game was perfectly outlined by co-coach Heimir Halgrímmsson, who left us with: "If they put in a good performance they will always be winners in my eyes. If they win, their lives will change forever."

Heimir Halgrímmsson has perfectly outlined the significance of Monday's clash. (Photo: Handout/UEFA via Getty Images)
Heimir Halgrímmsson's words perfectly highlighted how important Monday's clash is to Icelandic football. (Photo: Handout/UEFA via Getty Images)