"When I started playing football, I never even dreamed this could happen," said Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson as Iceland reached their first major finals.
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A miserable night in Reykjavik ended in a once-in-a-lifetime celebration as Iceland made it to the finals of UEFA EURO 2016 despite a 0-0 draw against Kazakhstan in Group A.
Definite outsiders in a group that contained European heavyweights the Netherlands and established final tournament forces Turkey and the Czech Republic, Iceland produced shock after shock under their management duo of Lars Lagerbäck and Heimir Hallgrímsson. A 3-0 win against Turkey in their opening game was a massive surprise, as was their second success against the Dutch – a 1-0 victory in Amsterdam on Thursday,
They can now hope that even greater upsets are in store as they prepare for the finals draw in Paris on 12 December.
Aron Gunnarsson, Iceland captain
It's unbelievable – I'm shocked. We've worked ever so hard to get to this point. We're the first Icelandic team to qualify for a finals – when I started playing football, I never even dreamed this could happen.
Lars Lagerbäck, Iceland coach
It was a big achivement to take Sweden to a tournament, but leading Iceland to EURO 2016 is extra special. I'm very proud of the team and I can sense how proud and happy the nation is. No, I would not say that [I am a national hero]. People like Mandela and Martin Luther King are heroes – I'm just a football coach. This is a great group of players and they fully deserve to go to the EUROs. It's amazing to work with this team. We are through and there are still two games left. That's a fantastic achievement.
Heimir Hallgrímsson, Iceland coach
When me and Lars started working together, Lars told me that the team was strong enough to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil. I thought he was crazy, but soon I also started to believe. We almost made it to Brazil. We used the play-off loss to Croatia in a positive way. The players then saw they were good enough.
Best result: have never qualified
Coach: Lars Lagerbäck/Heimir Hallgrímsson
Leading scorers: all-time – Eidur Gudjohnsen (25); current – Eidur Gudjohnsen (25)
Most appearances: all-time – Rúnar Kristinsson (104); current – Eidur Gudjohnsen (80)
Record EURO appearances
Overall: Rúnar Kristinsson (29)
Final tournament: none
Record EURO goals
Overall: Eidur Gudjohnsen (10)
Final tournament: none