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Jónsdóttir: Success makes Iceland proud

Katrín Jónsdóttir has played in 127 of Iceland's 176 women's internationals and as she prepares to captain them in next month's EURO she speaks about what it means to the nation.

Jónsdóttir: Success makes Iceland proud
Jónsdóttir: Success makes Iceland proud ©UEFA.com

Iceland played their 176th women's international on Saturday in a 3-2 home friendly loss against Scotland – and captain Katrín Jónsdóttir has been part of all but 49 of them.

Jónsdóttir, who turned 36 on Friday, won her 127th cap in the Icelandic defence in Reykjavik against the same nation she faced on her debut aged 16 on 9 May 1994. The Umeå IK defender is all set to lead the team at UEFA Women's EURO 2013, just as she did on their major tournament bow in Finland four years ago, and she told UEFA.com what it means for one of the continent's smallest countries to be at the top table.

UEFA.com: What does playing in the finals mean to you?

Katrín Jónsdóttir: It means everything. We've had a long development with our team and we have not been to many finals. EURO 2009 was the first and it's really fun to be able to be a part of that. Of course it would have been more fun if it had started earlier, but [it is quite rewarding] that I didn't quit seven years ago or something, that I continued and am now a part of it.

UEFA.com: What does it mean for a small country like Iceland to qualify for a major tournament?

Jónsdóttir: I think it means a lot. Icelanders are proud of being Icelanders, despite our financial crisis, we are proud being from Iceland, and I think it's important. And it's not just soccer but other sports, there are really many children that are into all kinds of sport. So you can identify with the players who maybe go to the finals – our handball national team, for example. It's important. And of course the girls in the team are role models and hopefully we can have more young girls starting playing football.

UEFA.com: What are your memories of four years ago in Finland?

Jónsdóttir: It was the first time we were in the finals. We were rookies, if you can call it that. And I think we learned a lot from it. We lost all our games and we were not satisfied with that, we only scored one goal. We had a really tough group, but of course our goal was to do better. But it was really amazing to participate and see how everything works; before we only saw it on TV.

UEFA.com: Was it a big surprise that you managed to qualify?

Jónsdóttir: It was a surprise for the country, not for us. We had set a goal that we were going to the EURO, that was our goal. We saw that we had a team that could do it, and if everybody played at their best at all times, then we had possibilities to do it. So we were not surprised. Of course, we were really happy we could reach our goal but I think it was surprising for many people watching us.

UEFA.com: What kind of experience did you get in Finland that may be helpful for the tournament in Sweden four years on?

Jónsdóttir: I think, especially in the first game we played, we had a really high stress level. I think it's normal, but now there are many players still playing that also played that tournament, and I think we can tone that a little bit down. There were many small factors, also maybe not from the tournament, but maybe in what we can do better before the tournament.

UEFA.com: How do you rate your group opponents?

Jónsdóttir: They're really good, all our group opponents. Of course every team in the tournament is good, and we as a team have to get the best out of everybody; we have to be at our peak to be able to succeed.

We had Norway and Germany in [2009] too, and we also had Norway in the 2013 qualifying games – they are a really good team. And Germany of course are a really good team. The Netherlands we haven't played that much, but they're a team that are getting better and better. So it's going to be really tough.

UEFA.com: But you're confident Iceland can go far, really far, in the tournament?

Jónsdóttir: We have set a goal that we want to get to the quarter finals, but if we're going to do that we have to be in our best shape, and we have to do our best – everybody has to have a top game. And we have to play as a team. When people describe our team, it's the team spirit that we have as a whole. So that's really important, that we keep doing that.