Ice­land hop­ing for a Euro 2016 re­peat

HAPPY TO RUB SHOUL­DERS WITH MESSI

The Citizen (KZN) - - INTERNACIONAL -

Ice­land’s Burn­ley winger Jo­hann Berg Gud­munds­son is rel­ish­ing the prospect of fac­ing Ar­gentina’s five-time World Playerof-the Year Lionel Messi at next year’s World Cup in Rus­sia.

Ice­land’s re­ward for be­com­ing the small­est na­tion to qual­ify for the World Cup was draw­ing a tough group, fea­tur­ing Croa­tia and Nige­ria as well as twice world cham­pi­ons Ar­gentina.

“For a na­tion like Ice­land, the small­est na­tion by far to reach the World Cup, it’s re­ally spe­cial. We’re al­ways go­ing to be in the his­tory books, which is won­der­ful,” Gud­munds­son told the Burn­ley Ex­press.

“It’s still far away, we need to con­cen­trate on club football, but it got a bit more real that we were go­ing to be at the World Cup when the draw was made.”

Hav­ing grabbed the head­lines at Euro 2016, knock­ing out Roy Hodg­son’s Eng­land in the last-16 be­fore los­ing to hosts – and beaten fi­nal­ists – France in the quar­ter­fi­nals, the islanders will be aim­ing for a sim­i­lar per­for­mance at the World Cup.

Gud­munds­son, who came up against Por­tu­gal’s Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and An­toine Griez­mann of France, said he was ex­cited to get another chance to com­pete against one of the best play­ers in the world when Ice­land face Ar­gentina in their tour­na­ment opener on June 16.

“Messi is one of the best play­ers, if not the best, who has ever touched the ball, so it’s go­ing to be nice to test your­self against him,” the 27-year-old Gud­munds­son added.

“We know it’s go­ing to be tough, we’re go­ing to be de­fend­ing 95 per­cent of the time but that five per­cent when we play a lit­tle bit of football we may nick a goal and sur­prise a few peo­ple.

“We know we’re play­ing Ar­gentina, we have to think about our game, how we’re go­ing to stop them and how we’re go­ing to make their day dif­fi­cult.” –

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