Four years on from debuting at UEFA Women's EURO 2009 – the Nordic nation's first participation in any senior final tournament – Iceland will compete at the 2013 female finals in Sweden in July, knowing they are no longer inexperienced newcomers.
Iceland narrowly lost their three fixtures against France, Norway and Germany in Finland last time and their squad will be little changed when they feature in Sweden, having beaten Ukraine 3-2 home and away to qualify via the play-offs. Midfielder Edda Gardarsdóttir is one of those 2009 veterans ready to go again in the summer.
"There is more expectation on us this time – [qualifying in] 2009 was more of a surprise, I think, for Iceland as a country," she told UEFA.com. "There's definitely more pressure on us this time to get better results. Not just from the country, but also from us as players, as a team.
"I think the difference between the team now and the team then is that coming into a final tournament we had never played games under that much pressure and didn't know what to expect. This time, we have more players who have played at a high level for a longer period of time and who have had to play games in a do-or-die situation. I think we can learn that from 2009, that we can stay calm on the ball, we don't have to play aggressively. We don't have to be afraid of playing our game."
Just as in Finland, Iceland are in Group B in Sweden – and once more Germany and Norway await, with the Netherlands making up the section. Gardarsdóttir is, of course, most wary of the holders, whom Iceland will face on 14 July, the day before her 34th birthday.
"Nobody wants to meet the German machine," she said. "In 2009, we had a rough game against them [losing 1-0] where we just defended our own penalty box, and it was just a war out there. I think we'll play better football when we meet them again, and wouldn't be so intimidated by their tradition and amazing skill. On a good day, we can beat any team, and our coach and staff are really good at analysing things, getting the tactics right; they prepare us in the best possible way before every game."
Sweden will be familiar territory for Gardarsdóttir, who has spent the last four years with KIF Örebro DFF in the Damallsvenskan, where much of the Iceland squad are based. "The Swedish women's league is a really high standard, and the tempo of the games and the quality of the players this year has been the highest I've experienced in my career," she said.
"Having so many key players at such a high level, that's absolutely terrific for us as a national team, to be able to develop our players, and play against the strongest opponents possible every week. That has affected our game and our understanding of how we want to play as individuals and as a team, in a good way."
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.