Iceland are another team that will be playing in their first major international tournament at Euro 2016. Their participation in France was nothing more than a pipe dream going into what looked an extremely tough qualifying Group A, as it included much more experienced sides such as the Czech Republic, The Netherlands and Turkey, however Iceland managed some remarkable results and ultimately found themselves in 2nd place with automatic qualification.
They enjoyed a fantastic start to the campaign winning their first 3 fixtures which included a 3-0 hammering of Turkey in the opener and went on to finish with 20 points, just 2 points behind group winners the Czech Republic, after 6 wins, 2 losses and 2 draws.
The instigator of this fantastic run has to be the Swansea midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. His 6 goals during qualifying was the most of anybody in the squad and his timing of them was also impressive. He scored the goal which put Iceland 2-0 up against Turkey in the opener and then more importantly, scored in the home game against The Netherlands and in the return fixture in Amsterdam which ended 1-0, and was ultimately the reason behind Iceland qualifying in second spot.
There are few other standout names in this side but Kolbeinn Sigthorsson is someone who can also score goals. The Nantes striker claimed 3 in qualifying and with the help of Sigurdsson will be hoping to get Iceland at the very least their first goal in an international tournament.
It's a big achievement in itself, Iceland making it to France and qualifying for their first major competition, surely anything more will just be a bonus. They do possess a competitive squad and will be looking to at least get a point on the board in Group F which is very do-able considering the opposition they face.
With an out of form Portugal in their group, Iceland may see an opportunity to progress even though it may be a long shot. It will depend on the aspirations of this side who will be looking to enjoy the time that they are competing in France and may well be content with just the group stages at this stage of their development.
This is the first time Iceland have qualified for a major tournament in their history.
|14.06.16||17.00||Austria||0 - 2||Hungary|
|14.06.16||20.00||Portugal||1 - 1||Iceland|
|18.06.16||17.00||Iceland||1 - 1||Hungary|
|18.06.16||20.00||Portugal||0 - 0||Austria|
|22.06.16||17.00||Iceland||2 - 1||Austria|
|22.06.16||17.00||Hungary||3 - 3||Portugal|
Iceland will enter the group stage with a slim chance of qualifying for the knockout stages. They have been drawn in Group F alongside Portugal, Austria and Hungary with the first two sides mentioned expected to fill the top positions in the group. However, this is far from certain and Iceland may fancy their chances of upsetting the applecart by getting a result against either of these 2 sides. The Austrian match will be a difficult tie as this young team are on the rise and will be a very hard team to beat even though they are also an inexperienced side in international competition.
The Portugal match may be a chance for points as they have been very inconsistent in recent tournaments and if they enter Euro 2016 in the same kind of form, they could be vulnerable to a hungry team like Iceland. Hungary make up the group and are expected to be filling the 4th spot so may offer another opportunity for points for this Icelandic side.
Below is a list of the 4 teams drawn in Group F and their FIFA World Ranking, as you can see, Iceland are the lowest ranked team. However, don't let that fool you, Hungary are a poor side who are almost certain to prop up Group F at the end of the group stages.
Swansea's very own star midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson grabbed the headlines during qualification with an impressive 6 goal haul along with 3 assists, he is a classy midfielder with an eye for goal and if Iceland do anything in this competition, he will be at the heart of it. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson also got his name on the score sheet 3 times and will be looking to enhance his growing reputation at Euro 2016 by adding a few more goals to his name on the big stage.
|Jon Dadi Bodvarsson||23||Forward||1|
Iceland are fancied to take 3rd place in group F but this may not be enough to see them through to the knockout stages. They will have to beat Hungary convincingly as they will realistically struggle to get any points from the other 2 fixtures against Portugal and Austria.
Iceland do not have the quality of both Portugal and Austria and their tournament will be based on their fixture against Hungary. The Hungarians are most likely one of the weakest teams at Euro 2016 and Iceland are preferred to take the 3rd place finish due to them having more options going forward.
If they do manage to achieve 3rd place and qualify as one of the 'Best Losers', their journey will almost certainly end as the draw then means that Iceland would face either reigning World Champions Germany or reigning European Champions Spain. Barring a miracle this is where Iceland's epic journey will end, but if they do get to the last 16 it is an achievement in itself for this inexperienced side and they can surely come again in future competition.
Gylfi Sigurdson is Iceland's biggest threat and he will be the man on the end of any scoring opportunities. The centre midfielder has a tendency to be in the right place at the right time and he will be hoping to score a few goals at Euro 2016. Another quality that Sigurdson has is that he plays in one Europe's elite leagues where most of his colleagues do not, this will mean that he has experienced the pressures of playing on the big stage and he will be the man that the rest of the squad look towards.
Iceland are a side who rely on their defence to get results. They lack the quality to maintain possession and usually tend to sit back and wait for a chance to develop in the oppositions half. Their best chance of goals comes from their main striker and central midfielder's. Iceland usually play a long ball style of football aiming for the main striker, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, who can then hold it up for the rest of the team in the centre of the park. This tactic may prove effective against the lesser sides but may be found wanting when Iceland play the better and more experienced teams.