Having looked as if England – who finished as runners-up of Group B behind Wales – would meet with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, Iceland eventually snatched a last-gasp victor against Austria on Wednesday to set up a meeting with the Three Lions.
“I’ve always supported England at big worldwide tournaments when we haven’t been playing”, he said.
“Our national handball team has done this many times”, said captain Aron Gunnarsson, “and in the same way as they’ve been able to take their drive from the Icelandic craziness, so have we this time”.
“Even if Iceland has its best performance ever we can still lose to nations and teams like England, that’s just a fact”.
“Before the game four or five of us were unsure, but we continued”.
Iceland, the smallest nation that ever qualified for the European Championship, is now the smallest nation that ever qualified for the knockout stage of the Euros.
Traustason slid in at the far post to bundle the ball into the net, and was buried by a heap of Iceland players, substitutes and officials.
“Maybe the expectations have been too high”, Austria coach Marcel Koller said.
“If we can show these values on the pitch I think every Icelander is happy with the team, no matter the result”.
Arnor Ingvi Traustason clinched the win in the fourth minute of stoppage time for Iceland, an island country of barely 330,000 people (a little smaller than Tampa).
“I am really proud, it’s unbelievable”, the former Celtic winger told Press Association Sport.
Iceland’s Jon Dadi Bodvarsson opened the scoring on 18 minutes with his first goal for his country in 20 matches with a low finish past Austria goalkeeper Robert Almer.
Reykjavik resident Inga Stefansdottir, who watched the game at home with family and friends, said she had a similar reaction to that of the TV commentator. “I know probably 50 percent of our crowd, or recognize them”.
Bjarnason provided the cross for fellow substitute Arnor Ingvi Traustason to score the victor, which secured the country of just 330,000 people a last-16 tie with England on Monday. “It’s extra sweet for us”.