Iceland's newly appointed coach Lars Lagerbäck has named two separate 18-man squads for forthcoming friendlies against Japan and Montenegro in order to familiarise himself with the best players in the country.
Iceland will take on Japan in Osaka on 24 February before meeting Montenegreo in Podgorica five days later, but the former Sweden and Nigeria coach has decided that two entirely different squads will travel to each fixture.
"I will get a lot from these matches," said the 63-year-old. "Normally you want to win all football matches and these games are important, even though they are friendlies, but this time it is important for me to meet all the players, talk to them and see how they work and how they play for the national team.
"I want to have an open dialogue with them, even though my assistant coach and I are making the decisions.
This is very important because I have seen them all play, if not live then at least on TV or video. But I want to know little bit about them and their personality," he added.
The squad for the long-haul flight will comprise players mainly based in the Nordic countries, including eight who ply their trade in Iceland. Although they have less experience, it is nonetheless a selection consisting of significant up-and-coming talents. Stjarnan's Gardar Jóhannsson, was top scorer in Iceland's top flight last season, while KR Reykjavík goalkeeper Hannes Thór Halldórsson was voted player of the year last term.
"It is going to be a challenge," added Lagerbäck. "Not only are Japan a good team but the journey there will be difficult due to the time difference. It will be a very interesting test for me, to see if the players can handle the football after the travelling."
The squad for the Montenegro match is considerably more seasoned. Whereas Gunnar Heidar Thorvaldsson has the most caps (22) of the Japan party, Viking FK defender Indridi Sigurdsson leads the second selection with 61 international appearances. Goalkeeper Haraldur Björnsson is the only uncapped member of the squad.
"I am very pleased to have these games," continued Lagerbäck. "You take a little risk because it is never good for a team to lose all the time and that is a danger playing against good teams but I prefer to run that risk because if you want to develop into a good team you have to test the players against as good a team as possible."
Iceland will also meet France and Sweden in friendly matches scheduled for late May.
Iceland squad to face Japan
Goalkeepers: Gunnleifur Gunnleifsson (FH Hafnarfjördur), Hannes Thór Halldórsson (KR Reykjavík).
Defenders: Hjálmar Jónsson (IFK Göteborg), Arnór Sveinn Adalsteinsson (Hønefoss BK), Gudmundur Kristjánsson (Breidablik), Skúli Jón Fridgeirsson (KR Reykjavík), Hallgrímur Jónasson (SønderjyskE), Elfar Freyr Helgason (AEK Athens FC).
Midfielders: Helgi Valur Daníelsson (ÍA Akranes), Theódór Elmar Bjarnason (Randers FC), Steinthór Freyr Thorsteinsson (Sandnes Ulf), Ari Freyr Skúlason (Sundsvall IF), Haukur Páll Sigurdsson (Valur Reykjavík), Thórarinn Ingi Valdimarsson (ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar).
Forwards: Gunnar Heidar Thorvaldsson (IFK Norrköping), Arnór Smárason (Esbjerg BK), Matthías Vilhjálmsson (FH Hafnarfjördur), Gardar Jóhannsson (Stjarnan).
Iceland squad to face Montenegro
Goalkeepers: Stefán Logi Magnússon (Lillestrøm SK), Haraldur Björnsson (Sarpsburg 08 FF).
Defenders: Indridi Sigurdsson (Viking FK), Grétar Rafn Steinsson (Bolton Wanderers FC), Birkir Már Sævarsson (SK Brann), Bjarni Ólafur Eiríksson (Stabæk Fotball), Ragnar Sigurdsson (FC København), Sölvi Geir Ottesen (FC København), Hjörtur Logi Valgardsson (IFK Göteborg).
Midfielders: Emil Hallfredsson (Hellas-Verona FC), Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff City AFC), Kári Árnason (Aberdeen FC), Jóhann Berg Gudmundsson (AZ Alkmaar), Rúrik Gíslason (Odense BK), Eggert Gunnthór Jónsson (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC).
Forwards: Birkir Bjarnason (R. Standard de Liège), Alfred Finnbogason (KSC Lokeren OV), Gylfi Thór Sigurdsson (TSG Hoffenheim 1899/Swansea City AFC).
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