Sigurdsson sets big goals for Iceland

Not content with deciding the qualifying play-off with Scotland in Iceland's favour, double goalscorer Gylfi Thor Sigurðsson now wants his side to make an impact at the finals.

Gylfi Thor Sigurðsson's goalscoring touch made the difference for Iceland in Edinburgh
Gylfi Thor Sigurðsson's goalscoring touch made the difference for Iceland in Edinburgh ©Getty Images

Iceland match-winner Gylfi Thor Sigurdsson believes more shocks are on the way from his nation when they line up in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals for the first time in their history.

Sigurðsson scored twice in the play-off second leg against Scotland in Edinburgh to earn a 4-2 aggregate victory and a place in the final eight in Denmark next June.

"Scotland won their group and Germany had a great team but we beat them both," said TSG 1899 Hoffenheim midfielder Sigurdsson. "To get to the finals was our goal and we have waited for this for a long time so we will not go to the competition just to be there, we have high goals."

Progression was greeted with a personal message from the president of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who referred to it as a landmark moment in modern sport in a country where many players were developed in indoor sports halls before moving to clubs across the continent.

But qualification was far from certain at Easter Road as Scotland threatened to overturn their 2-1 disadvantage from the first leg in Reykjavik.

"We started very badly and we had problems with nerves," said coach Eyjólfur Sverrisson. "The Scottish dragged our players around and overpowered us in the middle so you could say we were lucky to survive the first half without conceding a goal.

"But we looked at the performance at half-time and improved after that. It has taken a lot of work to reach this stage and the team deserves to be there."

Sverrisson was assisted by the decision to release seven players from the senior squad to represent the U21s instead of taking on Portugal in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying. His elation at heading into a 3-1 lead in the tie through Sigurdsson's 74th-minute goal had been tempered immediately though, when Chris Maguire levelled with a shot from the halfway line at the restart.

"It was the best goal of my life," said the Aberdeen FC striker. "I told Jamie Murphy to give me the ball because I saw the keeper off his line. It was a sweet strike but it doesn't matter now. I'll always remember it though."

Scotland manager Billy Stark had always recognised Iceland's strength after their dispatching of holders Germany in the qualifying group, and departs the competition with a feeling of pride.

"The quality of our play surprised them, which was reflected in the changes they made at half-time," said Stark. "I thought we deserved to win the game and I said to the players there's nothing I could fault them on apart from a wee bit of luck and, unfortunately, we didn't get it."

At the draw for the play-off round, Stark had been relieved to have avoided Spain and England. The other seven finalists will be adding Iceland to that list at the finals draw on 9 November.