Iceland football team hungry for more of the ‘big stage’

Paris (AFP) – Gylfi Sigurdsson has promised Iceland will not be content to bask in the glory of their Euro 2016 heroics having had a taste of the highs and lows of tournament football.

The smallest nation ever to take part in the European championship with a population of just 330,000 stunned England to reach the last eight. They received a reality check in a 5-2 thrashing by hosts France on Sunday.

But Iceland’s cool blue replica shirts had already sold out before the France defeat. They have made their mark.

“Of course this experience was (an) incredible, fantastic three or four weeks for us and I’m sure all the players want to experience this again,” said Swansea City playmaker Sigurdsson.

“We’ve got the World Cup coming up and hopefully we can qualify again.”

Goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson had a night to forget at the Stade de France as a double from Olivier Giroud bookended goals from Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann to send France into a semi-final meeting with old foes Germany.

However, Halldorsson hailed Iceland’s “fantastic journey” from whipping boys to serious contenders on the European stage over the past decade.

“We can be proud of what we did, even though we wanted more.

“We have had great support from all over the world and it is has been a fantastic journey. Sadly it ended tonight.”

– Small nation, big hopes –

Iceland started the tournament by stunning Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal with a 1-1 draw. Ronaldo’s comment that they had a “small mentality” because of their dogged defence won only more supporters for Iceland.

They held Hungary by the same score and beat Austria 2-1 to reach the last 16 and create one of the biggest shocks of all time by coming back from a goal down to beat England 2-1.

Halldorsson, who plays for NEC Nijmenen in the Netherlands, believes Iceland now belong among Europe’s best.

“Now we have gotten a taste of being at the big stage, we love it and we belong here.

“It is going to be very tough, but we are going to go all in and give it all we have to qualify (for the World Cup).

“I think we’ve shown with the consistency we had in the tournament other than tonight that we belong up there with the big boys and we can get results and we’ll go for it.”

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