Football

Our best is yet to come, says Iceland joint-coach

Giant-killers Iceland eye hosts France next after England scalp

ROUND OF 16

ENGLAND 1

(Wayne Rooney 4-pen)

ICELAND 2

(Ragnar Sigurdsson 6, 
Kolbeinn Sigthorsson 18)

Beware, France.

After Iceland pulled off one of the greatest shocks in European Championship history by beating England yesterday morning (Singapore time), joint-coach Heimir Hallgrimsson believes there is more to come.

Their stunning 2-1 defeat of England in the last 16, which led opposition coach Roy Hodgson to resign, sets up a mouth-watering clash with hosts France in the quarter-finals.

"We've been improving slowly and... this was our best game yet, but we still haven't shown what we can do," said Hallgrimsson. "Hopefully, our best game is yet to come."

After falling behind to a fourth-minute Wayne Rooney penalty, Iceland levelled almost immediately through Ragnar Sigurdsson and struck again in the 18th minute with a Kolbeinn Sigthorsson shot.

While they were forced to defend deeper in the second period, they still had chances, with Man-of-the-Match Sigurdsson attempting a bicycle kick, a rare sight for a central defender.

NOT EASY

"They (England) thought this would be a walk in the park, but we had faith in our ability," said Sigurdsson. "I think they panicked. It's not easy to score goals against Iceland.

"We didn't feel that they created any chances. Kane had an opportunity and headed straight at our goalkeeper.

"A lot that we were heading away, long shots from distance we were keeping clear. I wasn't really stressed apart from the last minute."

Hallgrimsson said that the greatest achievement in Iceland's football history came more easily than expected as a lacklustre England failed to put the tournament debutants under any serious pressure.

"I didn't think the English put us under so much pressure," said Hallgrimsson.

More than 10,000 people packed a Reykjavik square to watch Iceland beat England as the victory in Nice sparked national celebrations.

Iceland has rarely had such international sports triumphs to celebrate. Its men's handball team won the silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"There are no words, only tears of joy," Iceland's foreign ministry said on its Twitter account.

But there were many words to make fun of the big neighbour across the Atlantic.

"This was the real Brexit," said Asta Helgadottir, a deputy in the Icelandic parliament for the Pirate Party, on her Twitter account.

"Our Boys sent England home," the Frettabladid internet news site said. Iceland's team are known as
Our Boys.

ANOTHER UPSET?

While Iceland - a nation of about 330,000 people - will be the underdogs against France in Paris on Monday morning, few would completely rule out another upset.

They beat Holland home and away in qualifying and, in the group stages at the Finals, have drawn with Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal and Hungary and beat Austria, who were tipped as the tournament's dark horses.

"I expect a good (French) team, similar to England maybe. France haven't been playing their best football yet and neither have we," said Sigurdsson.

"We want to try and be a little bit more dominant and play a little bit more technically."

The European Championship has had some surprise winners, with Denmark having triumphed in 1992 after being drafted in to replace disqualified Yugoslavia and outsiders Greece managing to win in 2004, having not been at the Finals for 24 years.

But this year's showpiece match still seems a long way off for Iceland, who would come up against Italy or Germany if they managed to see off the hosts at the Stade de France.

"Now that they (the players) have gone through this hurdle, every obstacle in their way now is going to look smaller... that changes their mentality," said Hallgrimsson.

Asked if Iceland can go further in the tournament, Cardiff City midfielder Aron Gunnarsson revealed the secret of their success.

"We always believe. That's our attitude," he said. - Wire Services.

Five other shocks in football

1 United States 1 England 0 (1950 World Cup)

Most of the players in the US side at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil were part-timers - goalkeeper Frank Borghi, who saved a penalty, drove a hearse at his uncle's funeral parlour.

The historic win was made into a movie, "The Game of Their Lives".

2 Brazil 1 Uruguay 2 
(1950 World Cup)

In the decisive match of the 1950 World Cup, played in a round-robin format, hosts and favourites Brazil, who needed only a draw to win the cup, were beaten 2-1 by unfancied Uruguay, in front of a crowd of almost 200,000 in the Maracana.

3 North Korea 1 Italy 0 
(1966 World Cup)

In North Korea's final group game, Pak Doo Ik became a football legend by scoring the goal that knocked Italy out of the tournament and put his side into the quarter-finals, where they lost 5-3 to Portugal after leading 3-0.

4 France 0 Senegal 1 
(2002 World Cup)

World Cup holders France were stunned 1-0 by Senegal in the opening match in Seoul.

Papa Bouba Diop's goal set the tone for a wretched tournament for Les Bleus, who exited at the group stage.

5 Brazil 1 Germany 7 
(2014 World Cup)

Weakened by the absence of the injured Neymar, Brazil's dream of winning back the global crown on home soil was snuffed out in humiliating fashion by eventual winners Germany in the semi-finals.

- AFP.

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