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Björnsson puts Iceland campaign down to experience

Published: Thursday 16 June 2011, 14.13CET
Haraldur Björnsson says Iceland's debut Under-21 finals campaign will serve as a great lesson to players and staff alike after their first two matches in Denmark ended in defeat.
by Sam Adams
from Viborg
Björnsson puts Iceland campaign down to experience
Haraldur Björnsson believes Iceland will return all the stronger for their debut experience ©Getty Images
Published: Thursday 16 June 2011, 14.13CET

Björnsson puts Iceland campaign down to experience

Haraldur Björnsson says Iceland's debut Under-21 finals campaign will serve as a great lesson to players and staff alike after their first two matches in Denmark ended in defeat.

Two games into their debut appearance at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship, and Iceland are still to gain a point or score a goal.

It's our first time at the tournament and I think most of the guys didn't realise how big the whole thing was before getting here
Haraldur Björnsson

The statistics may be stark, yet a feeling persists in Eyjólfur Sverrisson's camp that it could have been very different, and that the lessons picked up on Danish soil will stand both the current vintage in good stead as well as future Iceland U21 sides.

Goalkeeper Haraldur Björnsson conceded that finals inexperience has been a major factor in Iceland's campaign. "It's our first time at the tournament and I think most of the guys didn't realise how big the whole thing was before getting here,” he told UEFA.com.

Admitting they were outplayed by Switzerland in their second outing, Björnsson pinpointed the opening game as the decisive moment of their championship. "It was probably bad for us to start against Belarus – everybody had their hopes up for that game and big expectations.

"We were at least their equals and we should have got a point," added the Valur Reykjavík No1. "Everyone thought we should have won that. To be fair, we should, we had some very good chances, their goalkeeper made some good saves."

While Björnsson said "nothing fell for us" against Switzerland, he is more philosophical about that contest, noting that it is "always easy to look back and say 'if'". All the same, he is convinced matters could have turned out differently. "It's a bitter thought to look back at the two games and see that we were quite unlucky."

Despite this, the tournament has been invaluable for the Iceland squad and their management. "I think the experience we gained from this is going to help both the players in this team and in future Under-21 teams – they're going to have bigger pressure, I think the whole process will be better for everyone."

Following a superb qualifying campaign in which they were the competition's top scorers, there is undoubted disappointment even though there remains a slim possibility that Iceland could progress. A big win against tournament hosts Denmark and a Belarus loss to Switzerland is the formula required, and although Björnsson knows the a semi-final place is a long shot, there is another reason for Iceland giving one last big push.

"Our fans have been absolutely amazing," he said of the sizeable travelling support at their games in Aarhus and Viborg. "It's a shame to not give those great people better results because they've been behind the team so I think that they were a very big help for us – we appreciate the support."

Last updated: 17/06/11 13.27CET

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http://www.uefa.com/under21/news/newsid=1644089.html#bjornsson+puts+iceland+campaign+down+experience

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