Iceland's headline-writers might have prepared some stinging assessments of Lars Lagerbäck's side after they let slip an early lead in Switzerland, going 4-1 down 54 minutes into Friday's FIFA World Cup qualifier.
However, match reports were swiftly rewritten in the 36 minutes that followed at Berne's Stade de Suisse. Kolbeinn Sigthórsson struck back within two minutes before 22-year-old AZ Alkmaar winger Jóhann Berg Gudmundsson completed a hat-trick in added time to snatch an improbable 4-4 draw with the Group E pacesetters.
"One of the most astonishing individual displays by an Iceland player ever," wrote national newspaper Visir. MBL hailed "a magnificent performance in Berne" while Fotbolti roared: "What a match! Great result, incredible game, what entertainment!"
Gudmundsson followed up his third-minute opener with goals in the 68th and 91st minutes and, understandably, he was all smiles afterwards. "This was my best game ever and hopefully I have earned my starting place," said the former Breidablik prospect. "It was massive to get a point when everybody had lost faith in us. Usually four goals should win you any game but we managed to sort ourselves out. We found our rhythm and after Sigthórsson scored the second and me the third, we knew we had a chance. It was a lovely feeling to see the ball go in for the fourth."
While Gudmundsson was making his 26th appearance for the Nordic nation, veteran Eidur Gudjohnsen picked up his 73rd cap in "one of the most unbelievable matches" of his career. The 34-year-old now hopes Iceland's remarkable revival can inspire them in their push for the runners-up spot in the section. Currently fourth, Lagerbäck's men entertain third-placed Albania on Tuesday with only goal difference separating the teams, while Norway, whom the Icelanders face in their final qualifier next month, are just one point above in second.
"This comeback gives us confidence for the Albania game," said the Club Brugge KV forward. "I said beforehand that a point would be a great bonus and it is an important one, especially because the group is so even and every game really is like a final." With Iceland also hosting Cyprus next month, Gudjohnsen added: "There are three matches to go and we have to win them all to take second in the group."
Switzerland, meanwhile, were left wondering what had hit them. "That should not happen," said shocked midfielder Blerim Dzemaili, who had scored the fourth goal for Ottmar Hitzfeld's side. "Up until 4-1 we played sensationally, but then we stopped playing. Now everyone has to ask what went wrong. Maybe we thought we had already won it. That's what happens when you underestimate an opponent."
"Stupid" was right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner's one-world assessment of Switzerland's performance. "We stopped playing football." Though his team remain top of Group E by four points, Lichtsteiner – author of two Swiss goals – felt the Iceland debacle was an important wake-up call. "We destroyed everything we had built up," he said. "We have to take a step up mentally."
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