Belfast Telegraph

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Elmar Bjarnason beaming with pride as Iceland fairytale goes on

By Simon Peach

Elmar Bjarnason found it hard to convey his pride and honour at helping Iceland make history, but found it easier to express their belief in causing a Euro 2016 upset against England.

On Wednesday evening at the Stade de France the smallest country to grace the European Championship secured their first victory in a quite remarkable fashion. Austria were in the ascendancy after Alessandro Schopf cancelled out Jon Dadi Bodvarsson's first-half opener, only for Iceland to break in stoppage-time and complete a 2-1 win that propelled them to second in Group F ahead of Portugal.

Bjarnason provided the cross for fellow substitute Arnor Ingvi Traustason to score the winner, which secured the country of just 330,000 people a last-16 tie with England on Monday.

"I am really proud, it's unbelievable," the former Celtic winger said. "I am honoured to get to play with my good friends.

"I've played alongside them for many years. Some up through under-17s, under-19s and now this.

"It's just unreal and looking up to the stands and seeing 15,000 Icelandic people gather - I never thought I could see the day. It's just pride I feel mainly."

Wednesday was comfortably the greatest day in Icelandic football history, but would be usurped on Monday should they upset the apple cart once again in Nice.

England may be 165 times the size of the North Atlantic island but their previous performances have shown they are capable of shocking Europe's establishment.

That success has increased confidence throughout the Icelandic ranks, but Bjarnason has been watching Roy Hodgson's side in France and knows the threat they pose.

"They probably haven't played their best game yet in the tournament and they want to show and prove to everybody that they have a good team," he said.

"If you see player by player, they have one of the strongest sides in the cup. If they hit the day, they're going to be hard to beat.

"I mean our belief in the team is tremendous."

Belfast Telegraph