Lars Lagerback rues Iceland errors as France loss ends 'fantastic journey'
Departing Iceland joint manager Lars Lagerback said he had been on a "fantastic journey" with the nation, but criticised his team's first-half performance as they exited Euro 2016 with a 5-2 defeat to hosts France.
Iceland, with a population of just 330,000, had never before played at a major tournament, but they were a revelation in France, going unbeaten in the group stage before recording a shock 2-1 win over England to reach the quarterfinals.
However, their hopes of further progress foundered in a chastening first half at the Stade de France, with Les Bleus 4-0 up by the break courtesy of goals from Olivier Giroud, Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann.
Iceland reduced the deficit in the second half, with Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Birkir Bjarnason on target either side of Giroud's second goal, as the tournament debutants salvaged some pride without ever threatening a comeback.
Former Sweden boss Lagerback, who took charge of Iceland in 2011, had mixed feelings after the defeat -- his final game at the helm.
"I'd like to congratulate France," he said. "They're a fantastic team and they made us look bad, even if we contributed to that.
"These four-and-a-half years have been a fantastic journey for me. With all the fans coming here and what we heard from back home, and all the positivity and interest -- I feel it deep in my heart. I've enjoyed every minute, except maybe the first 45 minutes today."
He said the poor first half had been down to psychological errors.
"We didn't handle it well mentally, but in the second half we showed it wasn't a physical problem," he said.
"These are the games you have to learn from, and we need to learn from this. This was a good reminder that you have to have the right attitude every second.
"If you look at the whole tournament, to reach the quarterfinals as a newcomer is absolutely fantastic. We didn't use our brains, but part of that might be France playing very well. We made mistakes and were too passive."
The 67-year-old's contract with Iceland is now up, and he said his co-manager Heimir Hallgrimsson would continue the pair's work.
"I may come back to coaching in some capacity, but now it's Heimir's turn to test his abilities and fly with the national team," he added.
Lagerback was this week linked with the England job after masterminding their exit in the round of 16, although he had earlier played down the speculation.
Asked about his future, he said: "I haven't closed any doors."
Iceland midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson told reporters: "We were disappointed with the first half, but France deserved the win. We are very proud.
"It's been a fantastic tournament and something special for a small team. We have probably overachieved and done something that nobody expected us to do."
The Swansea City star said Iceland have up to 15 players at "a really good age" and that he was looking forward to the 2018 World Cup qualification campaign as they seek to reach a second major tournament.
"Hopefully the future will be bright for Iceland and we can continue to improve," he added.
Iceland had seen around 10 percent of the country's population attend the games in France, and Cardiff City midfielder Aron Gunnarsson said: "I feel incredibly proud of this fairy tale run that has just ended.
"It has been hard -- we have had to earn it. We've had to push ourselves, and thankfully through it all we could rely on our fans' incredible support. I am flabbergasted by them.
"I think this just shows the support Icelanders have shown towards the team. It also shows how much the team has put into delivering at this tournament."