Captain Aron Gunnarsson says Iceland will take inspiration from fellow underdogs Wales when they take on hosts France in the quarterfinals on Sunday -- and the tiny country even believe they can win Euro 2016 outright.
Iceland, with a population of just 330,000, have produced a series of astonishing displays to reach the tournament’s last eight, including a comfortable 2-1 win over England in the second round.
Wales, who are also making their European championship debut, upset Belgium 3-1 to reach the semifinals on Friday.
Asked if their performance inspired the Icelanders, midfielder Gunnarsson told reporters on Saturday: “Yes, of course. They were not the favourites to reach that far in and we weren’t either. It is a joy to watch.”
“I think Wales are a force to be reckoned with. They have a good squad of players and a togetherness and they are showing a great attitude and desire to win football matches and I think we can definitely learn from them.”
Gunnarsson, who plays his club football in Wales for Cardiff City, added; “If you didn’t believe (we could win Euro 2016) we wouldn’t be here, it’s a simple answer. In this group we have fought hard to get where we are and we will keep on fighting.”
Iceland have only lost once in their last 10 competitive matches and are one of two teams, along with Wales, to have scored in all of their games at Euro 2016.
But it will take a huge effort to upset touted France. Didier Deschamps’ side are unbeaten in 11 previous matches against Iceland, winning eight of those games.
Iceland’s joint coach Heimir Hallgrimsson said he was under no illusions that France had the better individual players. But he felt Iceland could still show they were the better team when the two sides meet at the Stade de France.
Hallgrimsson says there is still more to come from his team.
“We are always playing the biggest game in Icelandic football history,” he said. “We are more used to it the more games we play. When we have overcome these obstacles, the next obstacles seem smaller the further we go.”
“We are a bit more relaxed in each game and have more self confidence. I keep saying we haven’t seen the best game of Iceland yet.”