Euro 2016: Iceland future bright despite France defeat - Aron Gunnarsson

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Iceland and France unite in saluting fans

Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson said that his side "are just starting" on the international stage after their 5-2 Euro 2016 quarter-final defeat by hosts France at the Stade de France.

Iceland became the smallest nation to qualify for a major finals before famously beating England.

"We are disappointed but incredibly proud. It's been an amazing experience," said Gunnarsson.

Coach Lars Lagerback added: "Iceland's future looks really positive."

Iceland were 4-0 down at half-time in Paris as France scored goals from Olivier Giroud, Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann.

But Iceland rallied to score second-half goals through Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Birkir Bjarnason.

They will now focus on qualifying for their first World Cup in Russia in 2018 from a group containing Croatia, Ukraine, Finland, Turkey and Kosovo.

Iceland fans
Thousands of fans gathered to watch in the country's capital Reykjavik

"Ten or 15 players are a really good age, and we're already looking forward to the World Cup starting. Hopefully the future will be bright for Iceland," said Swansea midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson.

"We're very proud. It's been a fantastic tournament, something special for a small team like us, we probably achieved something no one expected us to.

"It gives the kids back home hope that something like this is possible, and hopefully we'll be back in another finals."

It is estimated that 10% of Iceland's 330,000 population were in France to watch their team play during the tournament, and the fans have become one of the symbols of the competition.

Players and supporters were once again united in celebration after the defeat, leaving Cardiff midfielder Gunnarsson emotional after the final whistle.

"A lot of hard work has gone into this and the fans have been fantastic," he said. "They are still singing, it's unbelievable.

"The French have all left. Our fans are still here. It just shows what we put into this. The first half was terrible, we managed to play better after the break. We decided we could not leave like that.

"We will learn from this. We are just starting."

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