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'Little Iceland' not getting carried away

Published: Saturday 8 September 2012, 11.30CET
"We must keep our feet on the ground, after all we are still just little Iceland," said Kári Árnason after scoring one of the goals which earned his team a long overdue victory against Norway.
by Stefán Stefánsson
from Reykjavik
'Little Iceland' not getting carried away
Kári Árnason (No14) celebrates his opener for Iceland against Norway ©Eva Björk

Published: Saturday 8 September 2012, 11.30CET

'Little Iceland' not getting carried away

"We must keep our feet on the ground, after all we are still just little Iceland," said Kári Árnason after scoring one of the goals which earned his team a long overdue victory against Norway.

Iceland may have ended an 11-match, 25-year wait to beat Norway on Friday night, but neither coach Lars Lagerbäck nor his players are getting carried away just one match into FIFA World Cup qualifying.

"Norwegian wall finally broken down," read the headline in Icelandic paper Morgunblaðið after a historic night for the national team. Kári Árnason gave them the lead midway through the first half in Reykjavik, but it was not until nine minutes from time that Alfred Finnbogason rubber-stamped an opening Group E victory.

"This win was very important for us as Norway are one of the better teams in our group and our neighbours," said Árnason. "But we must keep our feet on the ground, after all we are still just little Iceland. There are many things we can improve and we could have played better. We have to get used to taking the lead and keeping it, not just kicking the ball and running."

Árnason's caution was echoed by Tottenham Hotspur FC's Gylfi Sigurdsson, who felt his team did not play to their potential – "but it does not matter if we get the three points." Next up for Iceland on Tuesday are Cyprus in Larnaca, with Finnbogason full of optimism. "We were arrogant before the game, said we were going to win and we managed to do so," said the opening goalscorer. "We have good confidence and got three points and will for sure go for another three against Cyprus."

Lagerbäck, though, is far too long in the tooth to look too far ahead and knows that in a section also containing Albania, Switzerland and Slovenia, the road to Brazil 2014 remains littered with potholes. "My experience as a coach is that when you are winning, everything is easy," he said. "As a coach after a victory, you do not have to do so much. It is just like playing the piano – you do not have to do so much, just smile. If you lose, then it is a real challenge for the coach to get the players back on course and recharge the batteries.

"Playing away against Cyprus is another match. Our scouts have been there and seen them. I have heard they are building a new national team so we will see how they react after losing their first game [3-1 against Albania].  It will be very warm so I expect a tough game."

For Norway, so close to securing at least a play-off spot in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying, there is plenty of work to do. "This is very disappointing, we wanted to win or get a draw but lost against a good team who did very well," said captain Brede Hangeland. "I am sure the media in Norway will give us hard time. We were expected to win but as a player you know the game is not as black and white as the media thinks. Every game is difficult. Iceland have a much better team than people think."

Last updated: 08/09/12 11.38CET

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