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Iceland spring surprise on France

Published: Tuesday 15 October 2013, 17.14CET
Belgium took first place in Group 4 with a game to spare and Iceland claimed the runners-up berth at the expense of 2013 runners-up France, who drew all three matches.
by Giovanni de Paola & Berend Scholten
Iceland spring surprise on France
Iceland celebrate reaching the elite round ©Giovanni de Paola
Published: Tuesday 15 October 2013, 17.14CET

Iceland spring surprise on France

Belgium took first place in Group 4 with a game to spare and Iceland claimed the runners-up berth at the expense of 2013 runners-up France, who drew all three matches.

Iceland coach Kristinn Rúnar Jonsson said "anything can happen in football" after his side ousted last season's UEFA European Under-19 Championship runners-up France to finish second behind Belgium in qualifying round Group 4.

While France drew all three games having led in each, Iceland edged to a 1-0 success against Northern Ireland on Tuesday's final day of action, Orri Sigurdur Ómarsson scoring the only goal 12 minutes after half-time to secure a win that brought a famous qualification . "It wasn't our best game ever but all the teams in the group were very strong and it's very good for us to be in second place," Jonsson told UEFA.com.

"We can do much better than we did here in Belgium but I think the best teams in the group are going through," Iceland's coach added. "Belgium were the best of all, they have at least two or three top-quality players. In the future we want to score more goals. Now we will see who we get in the draw, because in football anything can always happen."

France were left to count the cost of three successive stalemates, the last a 2-2 draw with the hosts in Tongeren. Francis Smerecki's team took a fortunate early lead through Leander Dendoncker's own goal but second-half strikes from Corentin Fiore and Théo Bongonda put Belgium in charge – and an added-time equaliser from captain Adrien Rabiot was not enough for France.

"I'm super satisfied," Belgium coach Gert Verheyen told UEFA.com. "When you're in a group with France you do not really expect to end up No1. I am really pleased with my team. We did what we had to do against Iceland and Northern Ireland; today it was more difficult but we reacted well in the second half and deserved a draw. I'm really happy, I never imagined we would get seven points in this group."

The home side had made sure of pole position with 2-0 victories in each of their opening fixtures. First a goal late in either half from Divock Origi and Bongonda saw off Northern Ireland on Thursday, before Origi again and Siebe Schrijvers clinched the points against Iceland on Saturday.

France, beaten by Serbia in the 2013 final, had cause to regret late goals conceded in their first two matches. Two-nil up with seven minutes to go against Iceland, Smerecki's side looked set for three points only for Kristján Flóki Finnbogason and an Oliver Sigurjónsson penalty to reduce that tally to one – a result that ultimately proved decisive – and two days later an 88th-minute equaliser by Simon Hanna rescued a 1-1 draw for Northern Ireland.

Last updated: 19/11/13 19.19CET

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