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Breidablik have high hopes

The Icelandic town of Kópavogur, with a population of 30,000, is the venue for a European quarter-final on Thursday when Breidablik entertain Arsenal LFC in the UEFA Women's Cup.

The Icelandic town of Kópavogur, with a population of 30,000, is the venue for a European quarter-final on Thursday when Arsenal LFC come to town for the first leg of their tie against a Breidablik side ambitious to go further.

Exciting prospect
Indeed, if Breidablik want another European campaign next season they need to win this competition after the 2005 Icelandic double-winners lost each crown to arch-rivals Valur Reykjavík. The two clubs supply the bulk of the national team, with Breidablik goalkeeper Thóra Helgadóttir the most experienced of those with 49 caps.

Familiar foes
The custodian cannot wait to face the English champions, saying: "We are excited and ready, it is not everyday we meet a old and established English team like Arsenal. They have the main part of their national team but we have also done well, are ready and have nothing to lose The first game is the key to getting through and we plan to win and go to London in a good position. Our national team has played England a few times in recent years so we know many of the players."

Close encounter
In the most recent of those international meetings, Helgadóttir captained her side to a respectable 1-0 defeat in Norwich against the eventual FIFA Women's World Cup qualifiers, a feat which has given Arsenal fresh heart. But Breidablik, who were beaten twice in three group games in their previous appearance in 2002/03, have been in storming form in Europe themselves.

Samúelsdóttir heroics
In the first qualifying round they overcame Portugal's SU 1° Dezembro, Austrian hosts SV Neulengbach and Northern Irish champions Newtownabbey Strikers WFC, scoring 14 goals without reply. In the next stage they started with a crucial 2-1 victory against home side HJK Helsinki, Greta Mjöll Samúelsdóttir scoring a last-gasp winner, meaning that although Breidablik then lost 5-0 to holders 1. FFC Frankfurt, another late Samúelsdóttir goal against Universitet Vitebsk of Belarus took them into the last four.

'Nothing to lose'
Samúelsdóttir is certainly raring to go. "We have everything to win, nothing to lose," she said. "We are fully confident we can come through and anything is possible in football, that is the beauty of it. It was great to score and get so far in the competition but I always believed we could, otherwise we would never have made it. When I think we are the among the last eight teams in the whole of Europe it gives me goosebumps but the result still is not a surprise."

'Everybody ready'
Coach Guðmundur Magnússon, who can call on Edda Gardarsdóttir and Gudrún Gunnarsdóttir in a strong central defence, added: "Everybody, both team and staff, is ready to do their best. I think if we get our minds ready, are ready to fight and keep a clean sheet in the first half, even score a goal or two, we could get a good home result as that is the key. I have not seen Arsenal play, but have good information from England. I think anything can happen, looking at Iceland's results against England there has not been much difference between them."

Valur backing
Valur became the first Icedlanic team to make this stage last season, and their coach Elísabet Gunnarsdóttir commented: "I think when we were there last year we did not think we could go any further. I think Breidablik have a chance and will go into the game believing they can win."