Lars Lagerback leads Iceland to memorable major tournament debut

by Andy Dillon / 15 June 2016, 14:52

Lars LagerbackIceland enjoyed a memorable major tournament debut on Tuesday, coming from behind to grab a draw against Portugal in Saint-Etienne. Below The Sun's Andy Dillon (@andydillon70) has his say on the man creating history with Iceland: manager Lars Lagerback.

THE WORLD would be a vastly different place today had the Vikings missed the boat.

But Iceland manager Lars Lagerback must surely look back on last night's stunning draw against fancy Portugal with as much a sense of frustration as celebration.

Lagerback, who has by far the best name of any coach at Euro 2016 by the way, should have been a Premier League manager long ago.

The way his bit-part players from Iceland forced Cristiano Ronaldo to throw his toys out of the pram at the final whistle in St.Etienne was a masterclass in tactics.

Thankfully, it also proved that the team with the best players doesn't always win. As they say in Reykjavic - ssonsational.

But this wasn't Lagerback's moment of glory, his 15 minutes of fame after which he will go back in his little ice-house and slowly melt away leaving the big boys to take it on from here.

Swedish pensioner Lagerback was the manager who navigated his homeland through the 'Group of Death' at the World Cup in 2002 better than any of his seafaring ancestors.

Lagerback and his sidekick Tommy Soderberg took Sweden to Japan to face the daunting task of seeing off Argentina, England and Nigeria. And he was given very little chance.

Three games later Sweden had won the group and sent two-times world champions Argentina home in disgrace.

Lagerback's key was his quiet, methodical manner on the outsider and his fierce inward refusal to concede ground at any point.

We saw that with the way Iceland clung onto their point once level against the swarthy Portuguese.

It was exactly the same in Japan when Lagerback managed Sweden when the country was in the middle of an export boom of players to England.

Five of his squad had been drilled in the industrial art of the Premier League; educated how to keep running for 91 minutes regardless of well, anything.

He employed the same tactics at Sweden's pre-tournament base on the sub-tropical island of Kyushu to the South West of the Japanese mainland.

We watched as Freddie Ljungberg, Olof Mellberg, Anders Svensson and Everton pair Tobias Linderoth and Niclas Alexandersson were ruthlessly worked in sweltering temperatures.

Things got so heated that Aston Villa's Mellberg and Arsenal's grungy winger Ljungberg came to blows during a training game before our very eyes.

But far from cause dissention in the ranks it underlined that Lagerback knows how to put together a fighting unit.

It must be his DNA because you'd always back the Vikings in a rumble wouldn't you?

A 1-1 draw with England when Sweden controlled the game, a 2-1 win over Nigeria who had Nwankwo Kanu and Jay Jay Okocha in their team and an embarrassing draw for Hernan Crespo and Juan Veron and it was the men in yellow and blue who marched on.

Sweden's campaign ended in the next stage but to many Lagerback had shown he wasn't just in the job for the amusement of headline writers.

Now 67, he must surely feel he was too loyal to Sweden - staying on until 2009 as national team boss. He then managed Nigeria and now has moved back up into the Arctic Circle to put Iceland on the football map.

He has already made their debut at the Euros memorable.

Southampton are currently looking for a new boss and a younger Lagerback would fit the bill perfectly for them but in terms of big club management there is a definite impression that his ship has sailed.

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