Glódís Perla Viggósdóttir on Iceland finals pioneers
When Iceland host the UEFA European Women’s Under-17 Championship finals from Monday, their team will not be the first from the country to play on this stage.
In 2011, when the final tournament was still a four-nation event in Switzerland, Iceland made it all the way to Nyon, beating Italy in the first qualifying round then progressing through the second with a 100% record against England, Poland and Sweden. They eventually lost 4-0 to Spain in the semi-finals and finished fourth, but it was confirmation that Iceland were in the top tier of women’s football. One of that squad, Glódís Viggósdóttir – now a senior regular – spoke to UEFA.com about that experience ahead of this month’s showpiece.
UEFA.com: What did it mean to qualify in 2011?
Glódís Viggósdóttir: It was great for Iceland, not just the Under-17 team.
I hope it made some difference and has pushed girls into playing football because Iceland can certainly give any team a good game.
UEFA.com: Just reaching the semi-finals was a huge achievement as you had to get past England and Sweden in the elite round …
Viggósdóttir: We did not concede many goals and there was no panic even though we had to beat some of the best teams around to qualify. When we played Italy in the qualifying stage and won, it was not what we expected and we realised we could do good things. It was great not to be in an easy group and just progress through luck – instead we earned our success in making it to the finals.
UEFA.com: Results may not have gone your way in Switzerland, but what did you learn from playing in the final tournament?
Viggósdóttir: We respected all our opponents but I think treating the other teams as bigger opponents, with ourselves as the smaller team, worked against us.
UEFA.com: How did the whole experience benefit you as a player?
Viggósdóttir: The experience was great. Of course it was frustrating to lose both matches heavily but the experience of playing such big games in a big tournament was still good. Maybe we did not think it at the time, since we were young, but it is an enormous experience to play such games and to handle that pressure.
UEFA.com: What is your fondest memory of that championship?
Viggósdóttir: I remember the good feeling after we beat Poland and were told we were through even though we still had to play Sweden. The Poland game really lifted us and then beating Sweden showed we did not take our success for granted and weren’t getting complacent.
UEFA.com: Do you think it is a good idea that these finals have been expanded to eight teams? If so, why?
Viggósdóttir: It is a great idea. Getting more teams and players into the finals makes it an even bigger event, which makes the experience more like the senior one – not just two games per team. I remember going with the senior team to EURO 2013 and feeling like I had done something similar before, not that I had, but something similar. It is great to have good memories before you reach senior level because you need that preparation. You get it by experiencing international football in the youth ranks and it helps to prepare you.
[PHOTO src=”1618601″ size=”smallLandscape” align=”Right” caption=” Iceland celebrate qualifying in 2011″ ]UEFA.com: What does it mean to Iceland to host these WU17 finals?
Viggósdóttir: It is only ever positive to play against good teams and it is special to do it in Iceland with the backing of the fans and your fellow Icelanders. It is great for young players who are just entering the WU17 team to experience that.
UEFA.com: What advice would you give the 2015 squad to make the most of this opportunity?
Viggósdóttir: Mainly it is to have faith in yourself. Even playing against the big nations, the Icelandic girls have shown they are getting ‘big’ themselves and are able win big games. They should enjoy taking part in what’s a great experience which you’ll never forget.