"We have had a year without a major tournament and it's boring," said Maren Mjelde after inspiring Norway to a group-clinching 2-1 win against Iceland, who vowed to win their play-off.
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Norway have never failed to qualify for the UEFA European Women's Championship finals, and that record remains intact after a 2-1 win against Iceland in Oslo ensured they pipped their Group 3 rivals to first place.
Iceland had set the pace in the section after beating Norway 3-1 at the start of qualifying but the two-time champions recovered this year and first-half goals from Maren Mjelde and Elise Thorsnes put them in control despite Margrét Lára Vidarsdóttir pulling one back. Mjelde and Solveig Gulbrandsen, starting for the first time since coming out of international retirement, are delighted to be heading to Sweden next summer while Iceland must look to Friday's play-off draw for a two-legged tie in October.
Eli Landsem, Norway coach
We are really happy to qualify for the finals without having to go through a play-off. The girls have lifted themselves after a bad start. Now we need to continue on the same track. We now have more players to choose from, which will give more competition for places. Both Gulbrandsen and [Marit] Fiane Christensen contributed a lot against Iceland. We also have several promising players in our Under-20 side.
Maren Mjelde, Norway captain
It is an extremely pleasant feeling. It is very important to get to the finals. We have had a year without a major tournament and it's boring. That's what you look forward to. [My goal came from] a well-taken free-kick from Solveig. Suddenly I was completely free. Then I thought, this I should be able to put away.
Solveig Gulbrandsen, Norway playmaker
We had a very clear plan: that we should sit back a little, hit them on the counter and try to stop them playing their way. I think we managed that. We were pushed towards the end, but we must reckon with that. It was great to do it. There has been some pressure with key matches in recent days.
Siggi Eyjólfsson, Iceland coach
I have never been as disappointed as I am now about this game. We played the first half well, neither team was on top, which was fine for us, but then twice we let down our guard in defence and conceded two cheap goals. In the second half we had nothing to lose, created some chances and played much better so we got into their box and scored a good goal. We only needed a little bit more. We tried to level the game and came very close so I am very disappointed, but on the other hand proud to see how my players reacted after going 2-0 down and battled their way into the game.
Katrín Jónsdóttir, Iceland captain
It is remarkably disappointing. I think we were the better team and deserved at least a draw but unfortunately it does not help to be the better team on the pitch, you have to score more goals than your opponents. The first half was OK on our part and I think we were the better team but they took advantage of short lapses of concentration to score two goals, which got them to the finals.
We are disappointed tonight and maybe tomorrow but there is still a chance and we are determined to make it to the finals, so we will go to the play-offs and win the games, no matter who the opponents are. We have to take the more difficult road but we have done it before and can do it again. We cannot cry about this forever, we have to move on. We made it to the finals through the play-offs last time, and we are going to go to the finals.