Euro 2016: Lagerback's composure and planning are Iceland's secret

Sports Saturday 02/July/2016 20:43 PM
By: Times News Service
Euro 2016: Lagerback's composure and planning are Iceland's secret

Stockholm: The success of Iceland, who face hosts France in the quarterfinals of Euro 2016 on Sunday, shocked some people but, for Nigerian midfielder Dickson Etuhu who has worked with their Swedish joint coach Lars Lagerback, it comes as no surprise.
Based on compact defending, hard work and quick counter-attacks, Lagerback's well-drilled side secured draws against Portugal and Hungary and beat Austria in the group stage before sending England crashing out of the last 16.
"He's probably the coolest coach ever," said Etuhu, who played under Lagerback when he was coaching Nigeria at the 2010 World Cup.
"When you have a coach like him who takes all the pressure on himself, it makes it a lot easier for you as a player to go out and perform."
Iceland have the unusual situation of joint coaches in 67-year-old Lagerback and 49-year-old Icelander Heimir Hallgrimsson, who will take sole charge of the national team after the tournament.
The 34-year-old Etuhu, who played for English clubs Sunderland and Fulham as well as winning 20 caps for Nigeria, now earns his living at AIK Solna in Lagerback's home country of Sweden.
AIK team mate and Iceland defender Haukur Hauksson recently talked about what he called Lagerback's "tactical brainwashing", and Etuhu remembers it from the World Cup in South Africa.
"It was very specific, very detailed. It almost becomes like second nature because you practice it so much," he told Reuters. "Getting across, being on angles, not letting the ball get in between the midfield, strikers working back so deep.
"When you have strikers that work back so hard, it makes it so much easier for the midfielders. It's not easy shuffling across all the time, but it works, it really does."
Etuhu says Lagerback's success as an international manager with Sweden, Nigeria and now Iceland is a combination of composure, discipline and attention to detail.
"He breaks it down. He's very simple - 'you do it my way or you don't play' -- but he says it in such a calm, relaxed way," Etuhu said.
"He's got that authority thing that you can't really learn. You just have it or you don't. There's not many coaches that I've had that I would put up there, but he's up there near the top."
Famously stoic, Lagerback barely reacts at all when his team scores a goal and Etuhu reveals that the 67-year-old coach rarely gets animated in the dressing room either.
"He never raises his voice. He has that authority that he doesn't really have to," he said. "You almost know that to keep that freedom he gives you, you don't mess it up."
Regardless of whether his side is facing tournament favourites like France or less glamorous sides in qualifying, the game plan remains the same.
"He believes what he believes, and you can't change his mind," he said.