Iceland co-coach Heimir Hallgrimsson jokingly suggested his side’s historic 2-1 win over Austria at Euro 2016 would force the Nordic island country to change its national holiday.
Iceland, with a population of around 330,000, is the smallest nation to qualify for a major finals and its national team strode into the last 16 and a meeting with England after consigning Austria to a premature exit on Thursday (AEST).
“I would guess we will change the national holiday. It’s normally on June 17, but they will probably change it now,” said Hallgrimsson, referring to Icelandic National Day which commemorates the country’s independence from Danish rule in 1944.
“That’s how much [this result] means to us.”
Meanwhile, Gudmundur Benediktsson, who is commentating on the Euros for Icelandic national television, has become a cult hero throughout the championships due to his passionate calls.
It was his reaction to the team’s late winner against Austria, however, which is set to gain him worldwide fame.
Watch and listen to his reaction below:
‘Gummi Ben’, as he calls himself, completely lost the plot when substitute Arnor Ingvi Traustason rounded off a 94th-minute counter-attack as the Austrians pressed forward in desperation.
“Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, we are winning this. We are in the round of 16,” Benediktsson shrieked.
“Arnor Ingvi Traustason secured us the first European Championship victory. We have never lost, notice that, we have never lost.
“Thanks for coming, Austria. Thanks for coming!”
Iceland looks forward to ‘dream’ match against England
Iceland, which drew its opening two Group F matches, was already on course for the knockout phase despite seeing Alessandro Schoepf cancel out Jon Dadi Bodvarsson’s early opener at the Stade de France.
But Traustason’s winner set up a “dream” tie against England in Nice on Tuesday.
“I think everybody who was watching the game realised how much it meant to us. We were willing to sacrifice everything to win,” said Hallgrimsson.
“We lost a bit of the initiative midway through the first half and into the second, but we won the game in the end. It was a rollercoaster.”
Kari Arnason, who made a pivotal goal-line clearance to deny David Alaba early in the second half, admitted facing England in the next round would be special.
“I’ve always supported England at big international tournaments when we haven’t been playing,” he said.
Had Iceland drawn it would have played Croatia on Sunday, but Hallgrimsson was happy to give some of his “tired legs” more time to recover.
“We’re not afraid of the England game. We know how much fun it is to win now. It’s no less of a victory to come second and get two extra days to prepare.
“Iceland knows everything about English football, we’re English football crazy. I don’t think we need to analyse them much, I think we know everything about them, but there are a lot of threats in their side.
“It will be form on the day that will count in the last 16.”