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FOOTBALL: EURO 2004: SCOTLAND v ICELAND, TOMORROW, 3PM: Bergsson: Victory would be ideal Gud-bye gift.

Byline: Michael BAILLIE

GUDNI Bergsson will call time on a glittering career at the end of this season - but he is desperate for one final fling in the international arena.

The 37-year-old Bolton skipper is set to retire and return to his native Iceland and study law.

But before he hits the books he will step out of international retirement at Hampden tomorrow afternoon to try to help Iceland reach next summer's European Championships.

Bergsson, who made his international debut in 1984, won the last of his 77 caps six years ago but his controversial exile is set to come to an end.

In October 1997 after a World Cup qualifier in Romania Bergsson, as captain, complained on behalf of his team-mates about having to fly back to Reykjavik before departing to their clubs around the continent.

His views annoyed then Iceland coach Gudjon Thordarsson and the Icelandic FA, and the row escalated.

After Romania he found himself persona non grata and was given the cold-shoulder.

The Icelandic FA came in for criticism for continuing to overlook Bergsson but current manager Atli Edvaldsson persuaded him to come back.

Now the veteran defender admits it would give him a great deal of satisfaction if he could end his international career on a sweeter note than his acrimonious exit six years ago - and that means a win against Scotland to breathe new life into Iceland's Euro 2004 campaign.

Bergsson said: "It's nice to be back in the international team. It's been a long time since I played for Iceland.

"The last time was in 1997, so I am delighted to be back and hopefully we can have a good game on Saturday and get a good result.

"The manager and myself have not yet discussed whether it will just be for one game or longer.

"But first things first is to concentrate on the Scotland game.

"But I am about to retire from football at the end of the season with Bolton, so we will just have to wait and see how things turn out on Saturday and take it from there.

"It's a long time since I last played for Iceland and there has been some speculation over whether I should be selected.

"That and some injuries to players in the squad eventually led to Atli contacting me and asking if I would be willing to come back and play for Iceland.

"I am delighted to be here because you don't expect an international recall at my old age, so I am glad it has happened.

"When I last played for Iceland I had some arguments with the previous manager and that led to my retirement.

"So I am happy to play again and end my career on a happy note with Iceland."

Bergsson, like his manager Edvaldsson, insists Scotland are in a strong position to clinch second spot in Group 5 after their win last October in Reykjavik.

But he knows that if the Scots slip up at Hampden tomorrow then Iceland will be right back in the melting pot.

Bergsson added: "It is certainly possible that we qualify for the Championships. But I think probably Scotland, at this moment in time, will be favourites for the second spot.

"We all expect Germany to finish the group on top and probably the result in Reykjavik was very important for Scotland.

"That put them in a favourable position but we would certainly like to challenge them for the second spot and therefore the game on Saturday is very important in that respect.

"If we can get a good result, who knows we might be in a position to challenge for second spot in the group."

Bergsson may epitomise the strength and steel of Icelandic football but he is relieved the player who summed up the passion of Scottish football in the 1990s will not take the pitch at Hampden - Colin Hendry.

The rock solid defenders shared a dressing room for a brief spell at Bolton, and helped the club win promotion two years ago.

Bergsson has nothing but admiration for the former Scotland skipper and also believes the Braveheart spirit lives on amongst Vogts' squad.

He said: "I know Colin well and admire him. He was a great example and a great leader for Scotland.

"We called him Braveheart and we all had great respect for him because of what he achieved.

"He has been a beacon for that sort of spirit of Scotland, certainly football wise for so many years.

"And some of that spirit is still there, definitely. They've had tough times but we are certainly expecting a tough game at Hampden on Saturday."

CAPTION(S):

IT'S GUD TO TALK: Gudni Bergsson, left, in discussion with Eidur Gudjohnsen as the Iceland squad go through their paces yesterday
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUS
Date:Mar 28, 2003
Words:798
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