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EXCLUSIVE: Iceland's Sigurdsson has been asking Wales' Ashley Williams for tips on England

EXCLUSIVE: Iceland's Sigurdsson has been asking Wales' Ashley Williams for tips on England

EXCLUSIVE: Iceland's Sigurdsson has been asking Wales' Ashley Williams for tips on England
27 June 2016

Lying dormant for years, Icelandic football has finally erupted.

The surprise package of the tournament so far, qualifying from Group F with one win and two draws, plucky debutants Iceland now face Roy Hodgson’s England for the right to play France in the quarter finals.

With 10 per cent of the entire nation’s 330,000 population over in France for the tournament, you just know they’ll be giving their all, and if one man is going to be crucial to their hopes of a result than any then it's Premier League midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, better versed than most in playing against the likes of Wayne Rooney.

However, speaking to ShortList ahead of the clash, Sigurdsson teased that he might also have been getting some advice on how to deal with the Three Lions from Swansea City teammate and Wales captain Ashley Williams, who of course faced them in the qualifying stage, which was won in the dying moments.  

Clearly enjoying his team's time in the tournament, Sigurdsson also gave some insight into how the unbeaten side will be approaching the game, admitting that they'll spend "a lot of time defending", play "on the break” and "look to hurt England with set pieces". 

We also asked him about Cristiano Ronaldo and whether he ever shops at Iceland. See what he said below.

Congratulations on qualification, the ShortList office has loved watching your team’s heroics. 
Thank you, we are really enjoying it as well. 

Any funny stories from back home during the tournament? Anyone named their baby after you yet?
Not yet, but if we beat England who knows…

Did Cristiano Ronaldo’s ‘small mentality’ claims help spur your team on to the recent brilliant performances you’ve enjoyed?
We didn’t need anything to motivate us. From the minute we landed in France we have been focused, and any comments by Ronaldo or anybody else doesn’t change anything either way.

Is the Portuguese captain too petulant at times and needs to learn to respect others more?
Sometimes when you are frustrated you say things in the moment, so let’s put it down to that. Of course we are going to spend a lot of time defending and trying to hurt teams on the break. If Portugal or any other nation finds it difficult to break us down, then it must mean we are doing our job well. 

Would Ronaldo get into this Iceland team? Team spirit means a lot...
Yeah of course, even with that - he would get into any team in the tournament. It doesn’t matter what his comments were, he has consistently been one of the best players in the world for a long time now.

Roy Hodgson doesn’t seem to know his best XI. Is that a boost for Iceland ahead of the England game?
I don’t think so. When you don’t know your best squad because you have to choose between Kane, Sterling, Rooney, Sturridge, Vardy, it is a problem most coaches can only dream of.

Do you think there’s a danger for England that they underestimate you?
No I don’t think so, when you get to the last 16 you can’t afford to underestimate anybody.

We’ve seen a lot of strange free kicks going in – and Joe Hart was at fault from Gareth Bale’s. Are you confident against Hart and think he could be vulnerable?
Hart is one of the best goalkeepers in England, so we can’t look at him as a weakness, but we have players who are very capable from set pieces – so that will be a way we look to hurt England.

Most teams England have faced have sat back and allowed England to try and break them down. How will Iceland approach it?
I don’t want to say much about our plan, but we are aware that we are going to be spending a lot of time defending. We have to defend as a team, and try and hurt England on the break. If we are looking at a weakness in the team it will be hard to find one, but I know the pressure that is on the England team. We don’t have that same expectation on us, so we must try and use that for our advantage.

Will you be speaking to Wales’ Ashley Williams and asking him for any tips on playing against this England side?
What makes you think I haven’t already? I am not saying any more than that!

How cheeky. Bales claimed Wales have more passion than England… as you play in Wales and Iceland have an even smaller fan base, does that therefore mean Iceland have more passion than Bale’s team?
I can’t speak for others, but I think I know what Bale is trying to say. When you are a smaller nation, you want to prove that you are capable, and it means so much to the fans.

If Iceland beat England will players believe they can win the whole thing?
We are really enjoying the tournament, we will carry on enjoying it for as long as we are in it, but at the moment we are not looking past England.

Where would you put this in your career highlights so far?
Representing your national team at a major tournament, it doesn’t get any better than that. 

Finally, as you live in England, have you ever shopped at Iceland? And if not, why not?
I haven’t, I don’t do the shopping at our house.