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Iceland are a threat, says super sub Birgisson

Scorer of Iceland's opener against France in Domzale on Friday, Gunnlaugur Birgisson insists his resilient team are not in Slovenia merely to make up the numbers in Group A.

No13 Gunnlaugur Birgisson stoops to head in Iceland's first against France
No13 Gunnlaugur Birgisson stoops to head in Iceland's first against France ©Sportsfile

Scorer of the game-changing goal against France after entering the action as a second-half substitute, Iceland's Gunnlaugur Birgisson spoke to UEFA.com about his delight at scoring, and fired a warning shot to the rest of Group A.

Birgisson's 66th-minute header proved pivotal as Iceland produced a stunning comeback to deny France in their UEFA European Under-17 Championship opener. Not only did the strike halve Iceland's deficit, it sparked a surge of optimism, and crucially planted a seed of doubt in a France side that until then had been relatively untroubled. Indeed, Les Bleus were good value for their commanding two-goal lead, the first of which had caught a nervous Iceland cold after just seven minutes.

"We were all feeling a little nervous going into the game and at the start as it was the first match," conceded Birgisson. "But then when you settle and get the ball at your feet, that's all you think about. Everything else disappears. It is the only thing you know, so you feel most comfortable with the ball."

Iceland certainly improved as the match wore on, but things took a turn for the worse when substitute Anthony Martial doubled France's lead. With the situation looking bleak, Iceland needed a shot of inspiration, and it arrived in the form of 65th-minute substitute Birgisson's header.

Unsurprisingly, the goal that turned the tide is the pinnacle of the tall defender's fledgling career – although so caught up was he in the drama he cannot recall much of the moment. "It is one of the best moments of my career so far. It was a very good feeling. I don't really remember it because it happened so fast. I just saw the ball come over and I found myself alone in the box, so I said to myself 'this is mine' and I just headed it in."

The strike paved the way for Birgisson's defensive partner – and captain – Hjörtur Hermannsson to net the equaliser. Clearly delighted, Birgisson is also keen to stress his role in Iceland's remarkable feat, while crucial, was minimal compared to those of his starting team-mates. "I thought it was a very good game," he said. "We always fight to the end, and we certainly did that. I owe a lot to my team-mates, who had to put in a lot of effort for a long time."

With an unlikely point secured, Gunnar Gudmundsson's charges now have their sights on another upset as they prepare to face section favourites Germany, who edged past Georgia in their first fixture. "We have had a good start, now we have to keep on going," said Birgisson. "We have Germany next and they will be a tough opponent. But as I said we always fight and we will definitely do that against them. We are full of confidence now, it was a great result against France. We're not here just to show up, we want to win, and that's what we're aiming for against Germany."