Lars Lagerback will not forget the whirlwind last month of his tenure as Iceland co-coach any time soon.
Alongside Heimir Hallgrimsson, Lagerback oversaw a dream run to the quarter-finals at Euro 2016, leaving England in their wake in the round of 16, while also avoiding defeat against Portugal in the group stages.
France proved a class above in the quarter-finals, winning 5-2 with goals from Olivier Giroud (two), Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann and Lagerback was not shy to admit the better team won.
“I would like to congratulate France. It’s a fantastic team, even if we maybe helped them a little bit in the first half,” he said.
“[Iceland] worked hard and wanted it but we did not use our brains and play the normal way we do.
“We weren’t sharp enough in decision making and things like that. We did some silly mistakes and didn’t defend well as a team.
“We were very, very passive when we won the ball.
“It’s been a fantastic tournament so it’s a big thank you to everybody, including to you all [the media] – you have given our guys a lot of positive responses and respect like our fans have so I really appreciate that.”
Lagerback said it had been special to serve his country over almost five years, as he is set to step down with Hallgrimsson taking sole ownership of the coaching role.
“It’s been a fantastic honour for me this four and a half years,” Lagerback continued.
“This tournament with all the fans coming here and what we heard from back home – all the positivity and all the interest – I feel it deep in my heart.
“Maybe I didn’t the first 45 minutes today but I have enjoyed every other minute with this team.”
But as proud as Lagerback was of the team’s achievements at the tournament, he was at pains to point out they had to learn from their defeat if they were to continue to progress.
“For us as a newcomer the first half here was like the second play-off we had against Croatia for the 2014 World Cup,” he explained.
“We had some guys who didn’t handle it mentally. In the second half they showed it was not a physical thing.
“In these matches, when you are close to something bigger I think you have to learn.
“It was a good reminder that in every game at this level you have to concentrate on every second. The higher you go the harder it is
“But over the whole tournament, as a newcomer to reach the quarter-final it is an amazing achievement.”
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