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Photo: Golli. Icelandic football crowd.

Men’s National Football Team Endures Heavy Loss in Bosnia

The Icelandic men’s national football team lost to Bosnia and Herzegovina in their first match in the UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying tournament. Head coach Arnar Þór Viðarsson told the media that the opening game, although disappointing, had not amounted to a “must-win,” RÚV reports.

A resounding 3-0 defeat

In their opening match of the UEFA Euro 2024 qualifiers, the Icelandic men’s national football team suffered a resounding 3-0 defeat. As noted by RÚV, the spirited atmosphere at Zenica, often referred to as “the heart of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” fueled the home team, bolstered by the enthusiasm of 15,000 Bosnian supporters. Iceland’s defence consistently lagged.

Both teams began the game with vigour, with Icelandic goalkeeper Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson managing two impressive saves early on in the game. Bosnia attacked relentlessly, however, netting the first goal in the 14th minute; Rade Krunic converted a pass in Iceland’s box.

Iceland attempted to retaliate through the long throws of Hörður Björgvin Magnússon, but clear chances were scarce in the first half. Though Iceland improved, they were unable to contain Krunic, who netted his second goal in the 38th minute.

Futile possession

Although Iceland maintained greater ball possession than Bosnia, the team appeared to lack offensive aggression. Hákon Arnar Haraldsson nearly closed the gap at the end of the first half, but both he and the home team’s goalkeeper stumbled on the uneven Zenica pitch, RÚV notes.

In the 61st minute, Amar Dedic’s left-footed shot from the right wing evaded Rúnar Alex, making the score 3-0. The match gradually petered out in the final 30 minutes, culminating in a disheartening loss for Iceland in their opening qualifier.

“Not a must-win”

In a press conference after the match, head coach Arnar Þór Viðarsson maintained that Bosnia was “a much better team” than people generally think. “We threw it away, you could say. They were very solid. They were very strong. We couldn’t regain our composure after the first goal, and we were trying to relay information to the players just before the second goal was netted,” he stated.

Arnar also maintained that the opening game had not been a must-win as far as the group is concerned. “It was, of course, a bad loss, and we need to learn from it. We need to take things to a higher level and a higher tempo. We need to adjust our game significantly if we are going to fight for second place in the group. This is part of football, unfortunately. It’s often difficult to play away from home and secure a win.”

Arnar added that the team had been “a little better in the second half” but that it had, nonetheless, been unable to stop Bosnia defensively. He still believes that the team can turn things around.

When asked what needed to change, Arnar replied in succinct fashion: “Winning games. It’s that simple. But we mustn’t forget that Bosnia is a much better team than people wanted to believe.”

Liechtenstein awaits

The team’s next game is on Sunday against Liechtenstein. Liechtenstein lost their opening match in the group against Portugal 4-0, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring twice. Portugal now sits at the top of the group; Slovakia and Luxembourg drew 0-0.

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