Pompey hero Hermann Hreidarsson admitted tonight’s Euro 2016 last-16 clash between Iceland and England (8pm) is ‘a dream’ for his country.
The Blues’ 2008 FA Cup winner represented the Nordic island on 89 occasions, scoring five goals before retiring from international duty in 2011.
Now manager of Icelandic top-flight side Fylkir, Hreidarsson is keen to see his proud nation complete the greatest win in their history – and is trying his best to get his own club’s game cancelled, so he can join the party in Nice.
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, Hreidarsson said: ‘As a proud Icelander who represented my country for 15 years and also had the privilege of playing football in England for 15 years, I can tell you our Euro 2016 match against England is a dream for us.
‘It’s special not just because we made it to the knockout stage. That was always a possibility when 16 of 24 teams qualify.
‘But the way in which we did it — unbeaten in three games, taking a point from Portugal and Hungary then beating Austria in such dramatic fashion — was beyond what we could have hoped.
‘We will relish watching our men test themselves against those we watch so closely from England.
‘More than that, we in Iceland love English football. We grew up on it.
‘I wasn’t born in the 1960s when English football was first shown in Icelandic TV but I’m told games were shown a week late because the tapes needed to be physically transported across the North Sea. And still people watched!
‘Many of us follow an English team each week in the Premier League, so we will relish watching our men test themselves against those we watch so closely from England.
‘I had no plans to be in France because my job now is managing Fylkir in our top division. But try stopping me going to Nice!
‘We’re supposed to have a league fixture tomorrow — our season runs through the summer — and both teams, as I write, are doing all in our power to get that game postponed so that we can join the exodus of 30,000 countrymen and watch this adventure in the flesh.’
Hreidarsson has not been surprised by Iceland’s progress in the tournament – and insists they will not be overawed by tonight’s game.
He added: ‘I’ve been pleased but not surprised by the manner of our progress, defending well from the top.
‘That was our strength in qualifying and it would be stupid to change.
‘But there is always a belief that we can get goals along the way.
‘So even when things go against us, like Portugal taking the lead, there wasn’t panic.
‘There was always a possibility of progress, but the way in which we did it, undefeated, was special.
‘Some teams, regardless of stature, might get jitters in that situation but we got stronger and stronger.’