Norway 1-1 Iceland: Freyr Alexandersson proud of team performance in a competitive match
Alexandersson (R) with Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson (Credit: Scanpix)

After their bruising draw against Norway, we spoke to Iceland coach Freyr Alexandersson about going up against a familiar foe as well as the team spirit that brings out the best in his team.

Strong response

Not the team on top in terms of possession, Iceland matched Norway every step of the way when they faced off last night, even after conceding four minutes in the side rallied well and restored parity as fast as they’d initially lost it. With new players brought in and some returning, Alexandersson has nothing but pride in how his team performed,

It was a physical match between two physical teams, we were trying some things, we were playing some younger players, some players coming back from long injuries and I’m just proud of my team today, they worked so hard. They had some problems around the middle of the first-half so we went back to what we call low defence, or counter-attacks because we didn’t manage the high pressure.

He continued, “When we came out after the break I thought we had good control in the second-half and we could press them up high, didn’t create that many chances though but we still had some and I’m just proud of my team.”

Conceding so early in a game can be a coach’s nightmare and the Iceland man was more than pleased as the mental strength shown by his side,

“Be strong mentally, just keep on going, don’t let this break you down – that was the thing that was going through my mind. I saw the captain, Sara [Björk Gunnarsdóttir] took the ball, threw it into the middle and shouted some things at the players and they grew confident again.

With the game being played a mile a minute and the scoreline jumping from 0-0 to 1-0 and 1-1, Alexandersson to heart from the resilience on the pitch with his side sticking to their game plan,

Keep on going, keep the tactics. Every time we play Norway it’s a tight game – 1-1, 2-1, 1-0, nothing much more than that – and we knew this, it was always going to be a tight game. So mentally we just had to stick to our game plan and try to work hard, try to get some good combinations and be awake regarding the set-pieces, we know they’re strong at set-plays as well.

Aside from the frantic first ten minutes there was nothing more to separate the two on the scores, strength in midfield and defence enough to stifle the best attacking players in each team,

Our keeper made two big saves, very good, strong saves and that was good for her. Other than that, we kept them from our goal, we were playing against the world’s best strikers; in my opinion Ada Hegerberg is the best striker in the world, maybe the best player in the world and she scored a good goal but other than that she was struggling, fighting with Sara.

A different test ahead

With the European Championships right around the corner, Iceland are in a healthy position of development and have been given a favaourable Algarve Cup group. With Norway, Japan and Spain their three confirmed opponents the side will be pushed and pulled in every possible way and will be forced to adapt and learn with each different opponent,

We’re playing such different opponents, next we’re playing Japan and they’re so good technically and can run around here for three or four hours without getting tired so we’re definitely going to try some other tactics there. And against Spain we’ll try another tactic but still we’re focusing on our game because we need answers before the Euros so this great that we’re against three different opponents and I’ll get all the answers that I’ll need.

Drawn in a Euro group with France, Switzerland and Austria, Les Bleues are the firm favourites with the other three nations set to battle out for the second-spot in the group and although it will be far from easy, Alexandersson has full faith in his side and their team spirit. Progression into the knock-outs his main target for this Summer,

Get the second spot, at least; that’s the main goal. France is probably the best team in Europe, of course we can cause an upset and the other teams can too but we know France will probably go through so that’s another spot for Iceland, Switzerland or Austria. In my opinion the Switzerland team is great and the Austria team is always improving so it’s going to be very scrappy, very tight and we need to be on top of our game. And if we go through, it’s the knock-out stages and anything can happen and with this team spirit we can do everything.