Although a small nation of a little over 300,000 people the tournament debutants will be jointly managed in France, with the reigns being shared by Swede Lars Lagerback and Iceland native Heimir Hallgrimsson.
Iceland’s qualification is in itself a fairytale, which is due in large part to a tactical nous and pragmatism displayed by Lagerback and Hallgrimsson.
The Strakarnir Okkar were largely deployed in a 4-4-2, and those who followed Leicester City’s heroics in the Premier League this season will note similarities with the Foxes.
The side is well-organised without the ball, often enjoying less possession than their opponents in qualifying. Despite this, the Nordic nation scored an impressive 17 goals in 10 games. Just as impressive, only six were conceded on their road to France – a testament to their discipline, for which Lagerback in particular has been credited..
Lagerback and Hallgrimsson’s system is largely dependent on a tight, compact defence, while making the most of their attacking talent with quick and efficient movement in possession of the ball
Having finished second in their qualifying group, the system does not exhibit any obvious weaknesses. Although lacking some of the star power possessed by other competing nations, the Strakarnir Okkar were widely lauded for their organisation and application.
Lagerback is an old hand in management, with a career dating back to 1977. After managing club sides Kilafors IF, Arbrå BK, Hudiksvalls ABK in Sweden, he entered the International fray in 1990 when appointed to the Swedish under-21 side.
After a brief stint as an assistant for the men’s national side, Lagerback was appointed as joint manager of Sweden in 2000, partnering then manager Tommy Soderberg until Soderberg’s departure in 2004. Under Lagerback, the country qualified for Euro 2000, 2004 and 2008, as well as World Cups in 2002 and 2006.
Following his resignation in 2009, Lagerback then managed Nigeria throughout the 2010 World Cup in a five month stint.
Hallgrimsson, by contrast, is relatively new to International management. From a much more modest managerial background, the part-time dentist first managed Hottur’s women’s team in 1993, while he also played for the club’s men’s team. He then returned to management in 1999, when he took the reigns of ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar’s women’s team. From 2006-2011 he was appointed the boss of ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar’s men’s side.
As with his counterpart, Hallgrimsson served an apprenticeship as Iceland’s assistant manager and, following their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, was promoted as joint manager. After Euro 2016, he will take over as the sole manager.
Lagerback and Hallgrimsson have instilled a steely resolve and newfound professionalism in Iceland’s footballers in recent years. Because of this, expect their side to be a tough unit to break down defensively. Opposing teams will be wary of over-committing in attack, however, as the Icelanders possess more than enough of a goal threat.