Surprise Package

Not many football fans would have predicted that Iceland would secure automatic qualification from a group that contained Netherlands, Czech Republic and Turkey.

Joint bosses Lars Lagerback & Heimir Hallgrimsson led an historic European Championship campaign as Iceland took their group by the scruff of the neck early on and did enough to secure their first ever appearance at the tournament proper.

Iceland didn’t win any of their final three games but by then the hard work was complete and they had done enough to merit their place in France.

There was also enough to suggest they should not be taken lightly this summer.

Six wins from their first seven qualifiers, including home and away victories against the Dutch, were the bedrock for Iceland’s success.

It represented remarkable progress for the joint management team, given that Iceland had finished second from bottom in their previous two European Championship qualifying groups.

A scoreless draw at home to Kazakhstan last September meant that Iceland booked their Euro 2016 slot with two games to spare.

With a population of just 330,000, Iceland will be the smallest nation ever to take its place at the Euro Finals.

Expectations lifted

Since former Sweden boss Lagerback arrived in 2011, Iceland have changed their attitude towards international football.

There is now an expectation that results will be positive whereas before there was just hope. Iceland are beginning to bear fruit from the wholesale investment that was made in football development in recent times.

Having narrowly missed out on a place in the 2014 World Cup at the playoff stage, the dream has become a reality in 2016.

Gylfi Sigurdsson is the spearhead of this team. A gifted playmaker, the Swansea City man was ever-present in qualifying, scoring six goals in his roving role.

Skipper Aron Gunnarsson is also Wales-based, at Cardiff City, and the versatile 26-year-old tends to be deployed in a central role.

Consistency of selection is a central theme for Iceland. At the back, Ari Skulason and Ragnar Sigurdsson were ever present while Basel midfielder Birkir Bjarnason contributed two goals in 10 games from a midfield that should also include Kari Arnason of Malmo.

>Workable Group

Iceland will feel the draw has afforded them an opportunity to make progress in France, especially if they can display the promise of their qualifying run again.

They face a daunting opening game against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in Saint-Etienne on June 14.

The Icelandic management will surely relish that opening gambit on the grand stage. As the Netherlands found out, reputations count for little with this team.

Having negotiated that potentially tough introduction, Iceland move on to face Hungary in Marseille on June 18 before closing their Group F campaign against Austria in Paris four days later.

Kolbeinn Sigthorsson of Nantes and Kaiserslautern front man Jon Dadi Bodvarsson have been the favoured pairing up front up until now.

They are likely to keep their places but, even at 37, the experience, guile and presence of Eidur Gudjohnsen is sure to be vital for Iceland as they attempt to find their feet on the big stage.

They could maintain their role as being something of a surprise package in France.


Goalkeepers: Hannes Halldorsson (Bodo/Glimt), Ogmundur Kristinsson (Hammarby), Ingvar Jonsson (Sandefjord)

Defenders: Ari Skulason (OB), Hordur Magnusson (Cesena), Hjortur Hermannsson (PSV Eindhoven), Ragnar Sigurdsson (Krasnodar), Kari Arnason (Malmo), Sverrir Ingi Ingason (Lokeren), Birkir Sævarsson (Hammarby), Haukur Heidar Hauksson (AIK)

Midfielders: Emil Hallfredsson (Udinese), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea), Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff), Theodor Elmar Bjarnason (AGF), Arnor Ingvi Traustason (Norrkoping), Birkir Bjarnason (Basel), Johann Gudmundsson (Charlton), Eidur Gudjohnsen (Molde), Runar Mar Sigurjonsson (Sundsvall)

Forwards: Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (Nantes), Alfred Finnbogason (Augsburg), Jon Dadi Bodvarsson (Kaiserslautern)

Team Profile

Number of European Championship Appearances 0
Best European Championship Performance N/A
Number of European Championship Titles 0
Qualifying Form Played: 10 Won: 6 Drawn: 2 Lost: 2
Coach Lars Lagerback & Heimir Hallgrimsson – appointed October 2011
Trophies 0
Most Capped Player Eidur Gudjohnsen (current), Runar Kristinsson (all-time)
Key Player at Euro 2016 Gylfi Sigurdsson