Iceland are steeling themselves for "the most important game we have ever played" according to captain Aron Gunnarsson, as they visit Norway on Tuesday looking for the victory that would earn them a 2014 FIFA World Cup play-off spot.
The Icelanders kept themselves a point clear of third-placed Slovenia in Group E with a 2-0 success at home to Cyprus on Friday, the same night that Switzerland – who now host the Slovenians – sealed first position in the section. They therefore have their fate in their own hands, but whereas previous generations tended to lose focus towards the end of qualifying campaigns, coach Lars Lagerbäck and his assistant Heimir Hallgrímsson look to have ensured that everyone is concentrated on their task.
"We are young and do not scare easily," said Cardiff City AFC midfielder Gunnarsson, who played in Iceland's 2-0 home win against Norway last September. "We have already put pressure on ourselves and now we just have to handle it. We have Norway on Tuesday, which will be the most important game we have ever played. The Norwegians will not give us anything, like we wouldn't give them anything. They have nothing to lose so they might play well, but we just have to think about our game, stay cool and everything will be OK."
As for striker Kolbeinn Sigthórsson, who opened the scoring against Cyprus, he is hoping for a more accomplished display when Iceland take to the Ullevaal pitch. "Overall I was not too happy with how we played, but there will be no carelessness against Norway," commented the AFC Ajax forward. "We have to rely on ourselves and it's best that way. This will be the most important game in Iceland's history and we're aiming for the play-offs. These days we play better football than Norway and are higher ranked, so there is no way we're dropping out now."
"We have to go for victory but we can also benefit from other results," added Lagerbäck, who will enjoy a full complement of players in Norway despite eight of his team facing Cyprus just one yellow card away from suspension. "We will of course hear what is going on between Switzerland and Slovenia, and if it's good news we will try to be more careful."
"Now this is all about what we do," said Tottenham Hotspur FC midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, Iceland's other scorer against Cyprus. "We do not expect any favours from Switzerland, and it is great to go and have a shot at the play-offs. That has been our goal for the whole competition, but now we have to get down to work and be ready for Norway."