Deschamps: Iceland are more than set-piece specialists


The Nordic minnows have shocked many at Euro 2016 but the France boss believes they deserve their spot in the last-8 have and have a host of assets in their armory.

Furthermore, the 1998 World Cup winning captain had to defend his actions in an incident when Les Blues last met Iceland in a friendly, just months after being crowned World Champions.

Ahead of France’s Euro 2016 quarter-final with Iceland Didier Deschamps says his team need to be on top form to progress past the tournament’s surprise package and says they aren’t just set piece specialist.

The Nordic island reached this stage of the tournament thanks to a shock 2-1 victory over England in Nice on Monday, with their first and equalizing goal coming as a result of a long throw.

While many have praised the so-called minnows for their expertly choreographed throw-ins and corners, Deschamps insists there is much more to their game.

“We’ve worked on things, but we know Iceland are not here by chance. They have not stolen their place here, and they are not just about the long throws it’s just that they have more throw-ins than corners so they make the most of it,” the France coach told a pre-match press conference.

“But they have a number of other attributes about their play, they don’t just loft the ball forward they also most the ball swiftly around the deck. They have players of athletic power but they have [Johann] Gudmundsson, [Birkir] Bjarnason and [Gylfi] Sigurdsson who are very technically gifted. What’s important is really making sure we are up to the challenge.”

Due to the suspension of Adil Rami Les Blues will be forced to make a change to their center-back pairing.  It ahs been reported that Barcelona recruit Samuel Umtiti is set for an international debut while Deschamps could not not rule out calling upon Manchester City’s Eliaquim Mangala.

“Do you want me to tell you Eliaquim Mangala’s attributes too or are you not bothered?!” he joked when asked about the Lyon defender’s qualities.

“Samuel has a lot of experience because he has already played in the Champions League with Lyon and was an under-21 champion with France. He’s very strong in the challenge, is technically gifted with the first pass out of defence and is worthy of being an international player as well as earning a potentially big move.”

Adding:“If he is moving to the club he is supposed to be, that’s not by chance either. He’s strong in the challenge, technically gifted playing the ball out of defense and already a top-class defender.”

Leicester City midfielder and all-round footballing revelation N’Golo Kante is also suspended with Yohan Cabaye set to fill in.

Didier Deschamps was also forced to deny he and his France team-mates disrespected the Iceland national anthem before a fixture between the teams almost 18 years ago.

A surprised Deschamps was forced to revisit events from September 1998, when he was captain of the recently crowned world champions, on the eve of the tie at the Stade de France.

Roger Lemerre’s French team had travelled to Laugardalsvollur in Reykjavik for their first competitive game after the World Cup and the visiting players were caught on camera laughing during the pre-match rendition of the anthems.

An Icelandic journalist asked the current France manager what had prompted that reaction. “I remember very well what happened that day, but you have misinterpreted the reaction,” said Deschamps.

“At no stage did any French player want to mock the Icelandic national anthem. It was just that the person singing La Marseillaise sang it, well, a little bit different with the pronunciation, which is why people started laughing.

“But that game brought us down to earth. We were all on cloud nine after winning the World Cup and we ended up drawing. But, look, that’s the past. We have a lot of respect for everything Iceland have achieved and are achieving at the moment. They have a team which includes players from the Premier League and they’re not small-time players. They’re not here by chance. They’ve not stolen anything to get to this point. They’ve done great things and they deserved to beat England in the last-16 because of what they produced on the pitch.”

France will play Iceland in the quarter-final of Euro 2106 on July 3 in Saint-Denis, Paris. Kick off is at 3:00PM ET.

Read the match preview here.


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