Iceland duo full of belief for Sweden showdown

Katrín Jónsdóttir and Sara Bjork Gunnarsdóttir epitomised the belief that permeates the Iceland squad when they spoke to about their last-eight meeting with Sweden.

One of the surprise packages in Sweden, Iceland have taken their place in the last eight of UEFA Women's EURO 2013, the first time the nation has made it past the group stage of a final tourmament at any level.

After finishing as one of the two best third-placed teams, Sigurdur Eyjólfsson's charges tackle the hosts in Sunday's quarter-final in Halmstad. In the meantime, caught up with long-serving captain Katrín Jónsdóttir and midfield dynamo Sara Bjork Gunnarsdóttir, both unwavering in their belief that Iceland can pull off another upset. Jónsdóttir also discussed the emotions wrapped up in her final footsteps in international football, while Gunnarsdóttir pinpointed the qualities that undergird a team brimming with pride. What does it mean to be in the quarter-finals?

Sara Bjork Gunnarsdóttir: It feels really good. It's one of our biggest achievements and we are really proud. We want to continue making the country proud as well. It's a big thing in Iceland because we are a small country, but we have great athletes. We are successful because of our attitude and our determination to be the best and work hard. 

Sara Bjork Gunnarsdóttir speaks to
Sara Bjork Gunnarsdóttir speaks to©Sportsfile

Katrín Jónsdóttir: It feels great. That was our goal before the tournament, to reach the quarter-finals and we are really pleased to have managed that. It's the first time a senior team has gone this far in a final tournament although we also made the quarter-finals in 1994, but there were only four teams. Iceland is a small country but one that takes great pride in its sport. Did you believe you could go this far before the tournament?

Gunnarsdóttir: Of course. Before we arrived, we targeted this stage and we had to believe. As a professional athlete, you have to believe, otherwise you will fail. Everybody in the group had faith. This is your farewell year in international football. Does that make your achievements even more special?

Jónsdóttir: It's really special to be here, a privilege and it's only the second time we have reached the finals. I know I'm playing my final games here in Sweden with the national team, but then I'm joining Umeå for the rest of the season. I don't want to think too much about that because it takes away from what's important at the moment. You're not the only player in your team who plays in Sweden. Is that a big advantage?

Gunnarsdóttir: I think so. We had a meeting about Sweden and many of us know their players because we play in the same league. Some players are playing elsewhere, but have played in Sweden before, so we have good knowledge of their players. We know their strengths and weaknesses and we've talked about it. How excited are you about the Sweden match?

Katrín Jónsdóttir is proud to be Iceland captain
Katrín Jónsdóttir is proud to be Iceland captain©Sportsfile

Jónsdóttir: It's going to be a really fun game to play in. It will be sold out with Sweden playing on home soil. They have done a fantastic job organising this tournament. We are expecting a really tough game because Sweden are a great team. However, in a competition like this anything can happen. You'll be underdogs going into this match. Might that help you?

Gunnarsdóttir: Yes. We came into the tournament with absolutely no pressure on us. We hadn't played very well this year, losing most of our games, including at the Algarve Cup. Most people didn't expect anything from us, so we have given a lot of teams a big surprise. Do you think your achievements will help the development of women's football in Iceland?

Jónsdóttir: Very much so. We have seen it before after recording good results, such as when we reached the finals in 2009. More girls started to play football. We hope to see that now, too, because we have very few players in Iceland and it's important to get as many girls playing as possible. What has been the key to your success so far?

Gunnarsdóttir: How well organised we have been. We are really tight and compact in defence. Also, we have shown great mental strength and our attitude has been really good. If we can keep on doing the right things, we can get a result against Sweden. Will this be the biggest game you and your team have ever played in?

Jónsdóttir: I think so. The biggest game we had played in until now was against the Netherlands and we won that. Of course, this is a bigger game, but we are going to give it everything.