Iceland reach their limit as France show equal determination
by Arda Alan Işık
ISTANBULJul 05, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Arda Alan Işık
Jul 05, 2016 12:00 am
Iceland's crushing defeat of England was truly inspiring and instructive for everyone involved in football. When Roy Hodgson's inability to construct a repeatable attacking game plan combined with the slack attitude of the English players, Iceland found their golden moment to show all of us that hard work and determination can finish off a collection of individual talents. Nevertheless, the French were not as disrespectful as their English colleagues and they knew that their opponents had earned their place on merit in the quarter-finals. Iceland did the best they could do, but as the old saying goes; hard work can beat talent, but only if talent does not work hard.
First of all, Iceland had the virtue of knowing their limits and know-how to minimize their weaknesses. They did not have fancy dribblers, quasi-marksman playmakers or killer strikers, but they knew that football essentially does not demand more than a network among 11 players. Head coaches Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson managed to build a compact team that was well-drilled in defense and consistently dangerous on the attack. The team's dull but effective game plan was not a matter of choice, but a necessity in the tournament.
However, unfortunately if you do not have a quick and creative attack or individual talents that can make up for the lack of a plan, the moment of full stop arrives when your team encounters a team of equal determination and physical strength. Unlike England, France did not give time and space to Iceland during counter-attacks, the main source of Iceland's goals. They kept the press high up the pitch and collected all the deflected balls from Iceland's defense, hence, they pushed their opponent into a quasi-ping-pong loop that ended up with four goals.
Of course, with their limited squad and set of strategies, it would be illogical to expect Iceland to respond to France with the same rhythm and tempo. Only if they could get more from dead balls and push France into a more chaotic game with a more courageous and intensified press up the pitch, could they have had a chance to carry the game into penalties. But the huge difference in individual talent was obvious between the two teams and Iceland basically did not have the organizational structure to respond to this individuality with more collective action. Still, they deserve huge credit for what they have achieved with their limited resources.Finally, France have developed significantly since the beginning of the tournament and they are clearly not the same team that struggled to find opportunities against Romania. Nonetheless, Germany will be the ultimate test for Didier Deschamps to show the whole world how good he is at making talented players play harmoniously in a robust strategy. German coach Joachim Löw already has a concrete strategy for each and every position and they have an equal if not better arsenal than France. If they let Iceland's limited capacities deceive them and think individuality will be enough against the German war machine, they might share the same destiny as the 2014 Brazil team.