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History beckons for Iceland

Published: Wednesday 20 August 2003, 11.48CET
Iceland will edge nearer their first ever major tournament if they beat the Faroe Islands.
Published: Wednesday 20 August 2003, 11.48CET

History beckons for Iceland

Iceland will edge nearer their first ever major tournament if they beat the Faroe Islands.
By Stefán Stefánsson

With due respect to the minnows, a victory against the Faroe Islands is not usually a result that leads to wild celebrations in Iceland.

Time to dream
However, should they see off their hosts in Tórshavn tonight it would be easy to forgive fans in Reykjavik and beyond for getting a little carried away. Three points from this UEFA EURO 2004™ fixture would take Iceland, who have never reached the finals of a major tournament, to the top of Group 5 with just two games left to play.

German tests
Admittedly those remaining contests are home and away fixtures against Germany but the impact of sitting on top of the section as push comes to shove for next summer's finals could be very significant. Indeed, even if the Germans do follow form and ultimately take pole position, Iceland have every chance of pipping Scotland and Lithuania to second place and the play-offs.

Just one draw
Iceland have played the Faroe Islands on 19 previous occasions and won all but one of them. The odd one out was a draw in 1984, but the Faroese still believe they are not far off causing another upset - especially because only a last-minute goal from Tryggvi Gudmundsson on 7 June gave Iceland a 2-1 victory in the previous group meeting.

Brotherly love
"The Faroe Islands have never won against Iceland but the last two games were decided by the odd goal so the difference between the countries is not as great as before," said former Faroese international Uni Arge. "Iceland are more likely to win and it is always difficult for 'little brother' to win against 'big brother'."

Confident coach
Complacency is always a danger on such occasions but Asgeir Sigurvinsson, one of Iceland's recently appointed co-coaches, believes his men are focused on the task at hand. "I think the mentality of the players has been very good in the two games which I and Logi [Ólafsson, his coaching partner] have managed," he said. "I also think the players realise they would make history by winning and taking the top seat in the group."

Surprise still left
He added: "Traditionally the Icelandic team have broken down in such circumstances but then again, the opponents have been better. Now we must be balanced, in the right mood, have self-confidence and give our best in the game, otherwise our chances in the group will fade away." Sigurvinsson added that a positive result could be the catalyst for moving Iceland up the European pecking order. "We can show on Wednesday if have any business going further up. In every tournament we have been able to get surprising results - if we win here I am hoping the element of surprise is still left."

Rainy conditions
Iceland's preparations have been far from straightforward. Due to heavy rain, the Icelandic team had to travel for an hour to train in Tóftir, rather than waterlogged Tórshavn. Eidur Gudjohnsen and Pétur Haflidi Marteinsson also missed the first session because they failed to catch the right flight from England.

Experience needed
Yet the squad are together now and eager for the match to begin. ÍBV Vestmannæyjar goalkeeper Birkir Kristinsson summed up the mood when he said: "We must keep calm, we know where victory will take us and we should have enough experience to handle it." They may not be booking their flights to Portugal just yet, but if victory is secured tonight Iceland will take a major step towards experiencing a hot summer.

Last updated: 21/08/03 0.22CET

Related information

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