Iceland performed superbly to reach this week's UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final tournament but their coach Thorlákur Árnason knows that now "you cannot hide".
Árnason's team scored 37 goals in their six qualifying wins against the likes of Sweden and England to set up a semi-final with holders Spain in Nyon on Thursday afternoon, but the 41-year-old coach is taking nothing for granted. "I think the girls realise how big this stage of the tournament really is, live on Eurosport, so you cannot hide, and we have to prepare for the games carefully but I think the girls have not had enough [time]."
Unlike fellow finalists Spain, France and Germany, Iceland's players are in the midst of their domestic season, and Árnason said: "We have not got much time with the whole squad, that is one of the disadvantages because all of the players are playing a lot but then again that is also an advantage because they are playing tough and fast games with the top league teams. This is one of the things we have over the other teams.
"Still, we had little time together but our aim in the time we have is to work on their mindset. These games are on a bigger stage than before and one of my main concerns is the players stay focused and do not find all this too much for them."
Since the second qualifying round Árnason has called up striker Berglind Rós Ágústsdóttir, midifleders Ágústa Kristinsdóttir and Sandra María Jessen, defender Ingibjörg Yrsa Ellertsdóttir and goalkeeper Unnbjörg Jóna Ómarsdóttir for the finals selection, and explained: "The squad is always changing between tournaments, the young girls are changing but we have selected players depending on how they perform. We did not select a 2010 squad and keep it for 2011. Players get a break if they do well, like in the Icelandic top division where there are difficult games, which means they are ready."
The goalscoring record of his team, especially the competition qualifying record 11 claimed by Aldís Kara Lúdvíksdóttir, has caught the eye. Árnason – in his third year in charge of the squad – said: "To begin with the team was defensive but has developed into a scoring team. We the coaches have managed to change a lot, mostly their mindset and physical shape. I think that is because we have organised our work more than has been done before and we go to every game with victory in mind, not just turning up and seeing how it goes. Along with the mindset we focus very much on tactics because in international games that is the key thing."
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