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Pain before pleasure for Sigurdsson and Iceland´s heroes

Gylfi Sigurdsson went through the toughest 30 minutes of his career before Iceland sensationally secured a place in the last-16 of Euro 2016 with a last-gasp victory over Austria.

Substitute Arnor Ingvi Traustason scored with the final kick of the game at the Stade de France to seal second place behind Hungary in Group F and book a quarter-final date with England in Nice next Monday.

The tournament debutants came into the contest following creditable 1-1 draws against Portugal and Hungary, and an impressive start in Saint-Denis was rewarded by Jon Dadi Bodvarsson’s 18th-minute opener.

Austria passed up a golden opportunity to equalise when Aleksandar Dragovic sent a 37th-minute penalty against the outside of the post but Marcel Koller’s team were much improved after half-time and levelled through Alessandro Schopf’s solo effort.

Parity and pressure drove Iceland deeper and deeper, with the marauding Sigurdsson offering a sparing attacking outlet from midfield, until Elmar Bjarnason surged clear on the break deep into stoppage time and Traustason did the rest.

“It was probably the hardest, most nerve-wracking 30 minutes I’ve ever played. But in the last 10 seconds it was all worth it,” Sigurdsson said.

“It means a lot to the players to qualify, but also the fans and people back home. I’m very proud of what we are doing at the moment. 

“We said before the game to each other that we don’t want to go home, we are enjoying this too much and hopefully we can continue for a little longer.”

Swansea City midfielder Sigurdsson is well acquainted with the England players he will take on in the next round and he is relishing the infectious underdog ride that has a tiny nation of 323,000 people enraptured.

“There’s no pressure on us anymore. We’ve probably achieved something that no one expected us to achieve – starting by getting here into the finals and then by going through into the last-16,” he added.

“No matter what team [we’re playing against], we’re normally the underdogs but hopefully we can keep it going and stay here for a while.

“There’s a lot of friends, a lot of family in the crowd. You can see what it means to them. They’re a fantastic set of fans and hopefully there are a few more coming for the next game.

“it’s special for us to still be in the tournament so they can celebrate and enjoy us being here. For the younger kids back home as well, to grow up watching us in the Euros must be incredible.”

Thu 23 Jun, 2016
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