Hermann Hrediarsson says Iceland are just like Ipswich Town’s Class of ‘01

Hermann Hreidarsson

Hermann Hreidarsson - Credit: Archant

Hermann Hreidarsson sees a lot of similarities between Iceland and the Ipswich Town Class of 2001.

The Nordic island nation – whose population is similar to that of Leicester – take on England as major underdogs in the last 16 of Euro 2016 tonight (8pm).

They look very much like a potential banana skin though given they qualified for their first major tournament with wins against Holland (twice), Czech Republic and Turkey and progressed through the group stages with a win over Austria and draws against Portugal and Hungary.

No-nonsense defender Hreidarsson was capped 89 times by Iceland and become a cult figure at Portman Road after becoming a club record signing for £4.5m at the turn of the century. George Burley’s men shocked English football to finish fifth in the Premier League that season.

“We are a bit like Ipswich were in my first season there,” said the 41-year-old. “No-one expected us to do anything, but we had such great team spirit, worked our socks off and upset the odds to finish fifth with 66 points. Each positive result gave us the belief that we could beat anyone and I think that’s the same with Iceland.”

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The former Charlton and Portsmouth left-back was in France last week, along with around 10% of the Icelandic population, but is now back in Reykjavik trying to steer Fylkir away from the bottom of the top-flight table.

“Everything has gone beyond our wildest dreams,” he said. “To be playing England in the last 16 of a major tournament is just so exciting because everyone in Iceland follows the Premier League. I would say 90% of our population has England as their second team to support.

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“Everyone in Iceland is saying this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us. We’ve got nothing to lose. Even if we go out this tournament will have been a massive, massive success for us.”

Asked if he thought Iceland could win, he replied: “Yes we can - especially if it goes to penalties, I’m sure we’d beat England then!

“We can beat anyone on our day. We beat Holland twice in qualification, as well as some other top teams, so this is no fluke.

“Everything will have to go right for us on the day though because England are the massive favourites – that’s a given with the talent in their squad.

“I was very impressed with England in the group stages. They’ve been an exciting team to watch with the young players and the pace and energy they play with.

“But our work-rate and organisation is fantastic. Everyone knows their job and we defended very well from the front – the two strikers run their hearts out and keep going until their legs fall off.

“This team has been together for a while now and there is incredible camaraderie on and off the pitch. Our fans play a big part in that togetherness too. They have gone to France to have the time of their lives; win, lose or draw. That lack of pressure has helped us, I think.”

He added: “I look out for Ipswich’s result every week. My whole family had such a wonderful time there and I had a great relationship with the fans. I look back on that time with extreme fondness.”

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