LAS VEGAS — Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson watched as his team fell to Mexico 1-0 but said the experience will serve the players in his youthful squad well.
While the Europeans seldom got forward in a game El Tri dominated, the coach wasn't upset by his team's performance.
"For me, losing 1-0 is not a disaster, it’s even quite impressive to be defending 90 percent of the game and only conceding one goal," he said in a news conference after the match. "We must have done something good defending-wise. Of course, I know we didn’t have the ball much so we couldn’t create a lot of chances, but I give a lot of players a lot of credit in my team."
The non-FIFA date friendly wraps up Iceland's preparation for the resumption of World Cup qualification with a trip to Albania to face Kosovo approaching in March for Hallgrimsson's men. In addition to Wednesday's defeat, Iceland also faced off with China and Chile in friendlies earlier this year. Though most of the players in Wednesday's squad still aren't able to crack the No. 1 Iceland team, the coach said he was happy for his young players to experience playing against a team that deployed tactics not usually seen in Europe.
While the 49-year-old said he doesn't know CONCACAF well enough to judge Mexico's chances for success in its own World Cup qualification journey, he puts El Tri among the world's top national team.
"It’s hard for me to judge because I know so little about their qualification group and their opponents and so on, but of course you see them in World Cups and other games," he said. "It’s a different style from the European one and that’s why it’s so important to see young players play against styles like this, this American or South American or whatever.
"We played Chile in China three weeks ago, and it’s just funny. Individual quality, really good individuals in the team, so the tactics are more or less about going 1 v. 1 against the opponent. It’s more collective play in Europe. That’s what is good. Players can develop playing against good players with individual qualities like we did today. I’ve always thought Mexico is ranked among the top teams in the world, and I don’t think this year is any different."
Iceland currently sits third in Europe's qualifying Group I while Mexico is second in the CONCACAF Hex after two games.