Time to change national holiday, jokes Iceland coach after win over Austria

  • AFP, Paris
  • Updated: Jun 23, 2016 08:37 IST
Iceland's forward Jon Dadi Bodvarsson (L) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the Euro 2016. (AFP Photo)

Iceland co-coach Heimir Hallgrimsson jokingly suggested Wednesday’s historic 2-1 win over Austria at Euro 2016 would force the Nordic island country to change its national holiday.

Iceland, with a population of around 330,000, is the smallest nation to qualify for a major finals and its national team strode into the last 16 and a meeting with England after consigning Austria to a premature exit.

“I would guess we will change the national holiday. It’s normally on June 17, but they will probably change it now.

“That’s how much (this result) means to us,” said Hallgrimsson, referring to Icelandic National Day which commemorates the country’s independence from Danish rule in 1944.

Iceland, who drew their opening two Group F matches, were already on course for the knockout phase despite seeing Alessandro Schoepf cancel out Jon Dadi Bodvarsson’s early opener at the Stade de France.

But substitute Arnor Ingvi Traustason rounded off a 94th-minute counter-attack as the Austrians pressed forward in desperation to set up a “dream” tie against England in Nice on Monday.

“I think everybody who was watching the game realised how much it meant to us. We were willing to sacrifice everything to win,” said Hallgrimsson.

“We lost a bit of the initiative midway through the first half and into the second, but we won the game in the end. It was a rollercoaster.”

Kari Arnason, who made a pivotal goal-line clearance to deny David Alaba early in the second half, admitted facing England in the next round would be special.

“I’ve always supported England at big international tournaments when we haven’t been playing,” he said.

“It’s a dream come true, but we go into the game to get a result. We believe in our ability.”

Had Iceland drawn they would have played Croatia on Saturday, but Hallgrimsson was happy to give some of his “tired legs” more to time to recover.

“We’re not afraid of the England game. We know how much fun it is to win now. It’s no less of a victory to come second and get two extra days to prepare.

“Iceland knows everything about English football, we’re English football crazy. I don’t think we need to analyse them much, I think we know everything about them, but there are a lot of threats in their side.

Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson, left, celebrates with team staff at the end of the Euro 2016 Group F match between Iceland and Austria. (AP)

“It will be form on the day that will count in the last 16.”

Austria boss Marcel Koller tried to pick out the positives from a disappointing campaign in France.

“People sometimes forget we qualified for the Euro for the first time,” he said -- Austria qualified in 2008 by virtue of co-hosting the tournament.

“We cannot be satisfied, but considering the development of the side we can be very proud,” Koller added.

“Of course it’s a disappointment for players, the fans and the coaching staff, but I think we’ve gained a lot of experience.

“That’s very important to participate in such a tournament with such a high level and intense matches. These are some very valuable experiences.”

The former Swiss international refused to place any blame on Aleksandar Dragovic, whose first-half penalty miss came back to haunt Austria.

“I choose two penalty-takers, David (Alaba) and Dragovic. They have to agree on the pitch who will take it,” explained Koller.

“The one who feels better shoots. Dragovic assumed responsibility and there’s nothing to blame him for.”

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