On Thursday, goalkeeper Thóra Björg Helgadóttir is set to make her 99th appearance for Iceland and perhaps the most important of all.
Iceland take on Norway in Kalmar in their UEFA Women's EURO 2013 Group B opener hoping to do what they were unable to on their finals debut four years ago – get at least a point.
Helgadóttir, who has overcome an injury suffered for FC Malmö just before the international break, played in two of the 2009 games, including the 1-0 loss to Norway that ended their hopes, and now she speaks to UEFA.com about their goals in Sweden, a tough section and how her cosmopolitan club career has helped her.
UEFA.com: What are the expectations of your team?
Thóra Björg Helgadóttir: A lot of people would say we've already reached our goal by qualifying, but we, as a team, do not agree with that. We're going to Sweden to compete. A realistic goal for us is to advance to the quarter-finals. And we will take the next goal from there.
UEFA.com: You are in a tough group - how do you see your chances?
Helgadóttir: I have a lot of friends in the Dutch team and the Norwegian team, and the feeling I get is that everybody is going to be playing for second place. Even though you should never say that, Germany are such strong competitors. The other three teams are quite even – they are ranked similarly and the games are going to be close. So anyone can be second and Germany are sort of in a different league right now, unfortunately.
UEFA.com: What are the strengths of the team?
Helgadóttir: Our strengths are that we are a good team. We work for one another, we fight for one another, we don't think about ourselves on the pitch, on the bench, in the stands; we work as a team and we work all for one. That is definitely our biggest strength.
UEFA.com: You have played in so many different countries: the United States, Australia, Belgium, Norway and, now, Sweden. How much experience have you gained from that?
Helgadóttir: Apart from personal growth and learning about different cultures and learning different languages, you play in different football cultures as well. Every country has their own style of play. It gives you a really good perspective of the game and opens your eyes to new ways of playing that you perhaps aren't used to.
UEFA.com: Can you describe how the level of play in the women's game has improved?
Helgadóttir: It has become more professional. There is more money in it and people are realising that you can actually make money out of women's football. They have found that the fans, if you get them in once, stay. So the biggest change for the game is that the players have become more professional, we are training harder, we are training more often.
And I definitely think it will be a while until the next EURO isn't the best EURO.
I think 2013 is going to be the best EURO, but I also think that 2017 is going to be a better EURO because the women's game is developing really, really fast and improving quickly.
UEFA.com: So the intensity of training has grown a lot over the last few years?
Helgadóttir: Yes, you have fewer players that have to work full time. Certain countries have no players that have to work, which is great – they focus only on football. We, unfortunately, still have players that have a part-time or even a full-time job. But we are getting there. About half of the team are playing professionally now, so it's moving in the right direction.
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