Coach of 2018 FIFA World Cup debutantes Iceland and Nigeria’s Group D opponents, Heimir Hallgrimsson, has admitted that his team were outsmarted in their 3-0 defeat to Mexico in their friendly clash in California, USA in the early hours of Saturday.
A brace from Miguel Layun in the 65th and 90th minutes and a goal from Marco Fabian gave World Cup-bound Mexico the comfortable win.
“They outsmarted us in a way,” Hallgrimsson told American website Centerline Soccer after the game. “They used their chances better than we did. I think it showed that they have more experience in games like these, and they deserved to win.
“Tactically they were good, even though we got some really good chances to score against them. Congratulations to Mexico for the win, 3-0 in my opinion is too big a number, congratulations to them on a good performance, and especially the result.
“In the first half we played brilliantly, especially defensive-wise and the free kick comes when we have a really good attack with five players in the box and we lose the ball from dribbling instead of shooting or crossing or whatever. We have five players in the box, lose possession, they have a counterattack, and get a free kick and score from that.”
Hallgrimsson believes his side must focus on their own style of football if they hope to kick off the 2018 World Cup against Argentina on a good note.
He said: “We have to be realistic. We are not the best possession team in the world. When taking a long time in the box, playing the ball, dribbling the ball, and losing it, we are vulnerable at the back.
“Maybe this is one of the questions for the game against Argentina is that we cannot be something else than what we are. We know exactly what we are about, what out identity is, and we should play according to that. And that is the questions we are asking, can all the players we are taking play according to our identity.”
He dismissed talks about getting overwhelmed by Mexican fans who were in the majority inside the Levi’s Stadium.
“We are used to playing in venues like these, so it shouldn’t be anything that would result in us playing worse,” he pointed out.
“In an atmosphere like that, I love it. We knew there weren’t going to be many supporters of the Iceland team. There were more Mexicans in the stadium than we have Icelanders in Iceland. These are the kind of venues every footballer likes to play in, in front of a loud crowd, even if they were supporting Mexico.”
And ahead of their next friendly against Peru in New Jersey on Tuesday, Hallgrimsson hopes the lessons learned from the loss to Mexico will give them an edge moving forward.
“Allowing the third goal was really depressing. I think if it finishes 2-0, we would have said we had a good performance against a really good team, but 3-0, that looks bad, especially for a team that does not concede goals very often. We kept momentum and we had our chances when it was 0-0, and we had chances when it was 1-0 Mexico. We never gave up, and we never lost our heads.”