Mon, Jun 20, 2016 - Page 18 News List

Despairing Iceland players can only see draw as loss

Reuters, MARSEILLE, France

Iceland’s Birkir Saevarsson, right, scores an own-goal against Hungary in their Euro 2016 Group F match at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille, France, on Saturday.

Photo: Reuters

Rarely can two 1-1 draws have stirred such conflicting emotions in a team.

Just four days ago, Iceland’s players were floating on air after holding Portugal on their major championship debut. Yet on Saturday, those same men ended slumped on the turf in misery, having seen a landmark victory snatched from them by Hungary.

Iceland had been on course for a famous win after Gylfi Sigurdsson’s 39th-minute penalty, only for Birkir Saevarsson to knock the ball into his own net two minutes from the end of the Euro 2016 Group F clash.

“Oh yes, very different,” sighed joint coach Heimir Hallgrimsson, when asked about the feelings after the two matches. “We were happy with a point against Portugal, but really, really disappointed with a draw today. The dressing room was silent after the game.”

Man-of-the-match Kolbeinn Sigthorsson agreed.

“It’s quite a big loss for us, this draw,” he said. “It absolutely feels like a lost game, but we are still unbeaten so we can still be positive and go in the last match with full confidence.”

Hallgrimsson said he was proud of the effort his players put in, but said the relentless chasing eventually took its toll.

“What were the possession stats? 70-30? That’s hard, that takes it out of you,” he said. “They worked us hard, we didn’t use the ball so well and it was probably a bit of tiredness, they kind of outran us in the end, but they also made some good changes from the bench, attacking changes, and sometimes when you take a risk it pays off.”

“This is a very good Hungary team and other sides are going to have problems against them, that’s for sure,” he added.

With two points in the bag going into their final game against Austria, Iceland’s fate remains in their own hands.

“We have to be upbeat, we are still in it, of course, but we were so close to almost qualifying,” Hallgrimsson said. “Maybe tomorrow we will be happy with a point against Hungary. We are lucky we are in the last group [to play their third matches] so we can see if three points is enough or if we need to go for a win.”

“It is good that we will know if we need to risk it. A win will put us through. A draw might, though I don’t think it will be enough,” he added.

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