Defense Key in Iceland’s Qualifying Final

football soccer

Iceland’s men’s national football team will play Ukraine tonight in the clinching qualifying match to see which team will advance to the 2024 UEFA European Football Championship in Germany this summer.

The match will take place in Wroclaw in Poland. Iceland defeated Israel 4-1 to advance to this qualifying final, while Ukraine beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-1. Either Iceland or Ukraine will take the final spot in Group E this summer along with Belgium, Slovakia and Romania.

Ukraine is ranked number 24 in the world by FIFA, while Iceland sits in 73d place.

Defense key

Football analyst Hörður Magnússon told RÚV that despite a decisive victory against Israel, Iceland’s play was not without flaws. “This was a game that we could have lost, but we earned the win,” he said.

Ukraine is a different opponent altogether, he added. “The Ukraine team is incredibly disciplined. They have four starting players who play in the English Premier League. It’s absolutely clear that the Icelandic team will need to defend better as a whole. They’ll be punished for the most minor mistakes,” Hörður said.

Iceland has a chance

Hörður added that despite Ukraine having a better team on paper, the match will take place at a neutral stadium in Poland. He expects Iceland supporters to attend the game in droves. “I’m not saying it’s going to be a 50/50 match, but we have a chance,” he said. “We’re looking better as a team than we did a year ago, not to mention two years ago.”

Iceland Triumphs Over Israel, Eyes Playoff Finals Against Ukraine

Icelandic fans at the World Cup in Russia in 2018

Head coach Åge Hareide has praised Iceland’s team spirit and character in their 4-1 victory over Israel yesterday. The performance secured the team a spot in the UEFA Euro playoff finals against Ukraine on Tuesday.

Excellent team spirit

Åge Hareide, head coach of the men’s national football team, expressed his delight after Iceland’s 4-1 victory over Israel last night, a win that secured Iceland a spot in the final match of the UEFA Euro finals on Tuesday. Iceland will face off against Ukraine, with the winning team advancing to the UEFA European Championship in Germany next summer.

“I’m very pleased,” Hareide told Vísir yesterday. “I thought the boys did well, and they worked hard. Not everything was perfect, but the effort and talent of the players shone through. Luck plays a part, and you earn your luck.”

As noted by Vísir, Hareide was particularly pleased with the team’s character; Israel took the lead shortly after Orri Steinn Óskarsson squandered a golden opportunity.

“The spirit in the team has been good in training. This is a good group of players who stick together. They didn’t hang their heads but continued to work after Orri’s chance and then the penalty against us. Everything seemed against us, but they turned it around, which was very well done. This is good for the team and the morale in the squad.”

Hareide also praised Albert Guðmundsson, who scored a hat-trick in the match.

“He was superb. I’ve seen all his games with Genoa, where he has been doing very well. I knew he would be very important to us if he could play; that was the question. We’re very happy that he could join us and hope everything goes our way in the next game.”

On a less optimistic note, two players, Arnór Ingvi Traustason and Arnór Sigurðsson, were forced off during yesterday’s match with injuries. Team captain Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson was also sidelined ahead of yesterday’s match against an injury, and it remains uncertain whether these three players will be fit to face  Ukraine on Tuesday.

Captain-Less Iceland Takes on Israel in Euro Play-Off Match

Iceland football team

Iceland’s national football team captain, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson, is sidelined with a thigh injury and will miss tonight’s UEFA European Championship play-off semi-final against Israel. If Iceland wins tonight’s match, the team will advance to the finals match of the playoffs, facing either Bosnia and Herzegovina or Ukraine, on Tuesday, March 26.

More serious than initially suspected

The Icelandic men’s national football team has suffered a significant setback as captain Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson is injured and will not participate in tonight’s UEFA European Championship playoff semi-final against Israel, RÚV reports.

Jóhann Berg has had limited involvement in the team’s training sessions, and it has now been confirmed that his injury is more serious than initially thought. In a press conference yesterday, Jóhann Berg revealed that he had suffered a thigh injury.

Mikael Egill Ellertsson will wear jersey number 7, usually worn by Jóhann Berg. As noted by RÚV, 23 players have been registered for Iceland’s squad by UEFA today, as opposed to the full 24 selected by coach Åge Hareide for the task, in light of Jóhann Berg’s injury.

Centre-back and vice-captain Sverrir Ingi Ingason is expected to lead the team into this crucial match against Israel tonight. If Iceland wins tonight’s match, the team will advance to the finals match of the playoffs, facing either Bosnia and Herzegovina or Ukraine, on Tuesday, March 26.

As noted on UEFA’s website, “the playoffs are all single-leg knockout matches. If ties are level at the end of normal time they go to extra time and, if required, a penalty shoot-out.” Iceland’s match against Israel tonight will take place at the Szusza Ferenc Stadium in Budapest, as UEFA has deemed it unsafe to host matches in Israel. The match is scheduled to start at 19:45 Icelandic time.

Goalkeepers:
Elías Rafn Ólafsson – CD Mafra – 6 matches
Hákon Rafn Valdimarsson – Brentford – 7 matches
Patrik Sigurður Gunnarsson – Viking FK – 4 matches

Outfielders:
Guðmundur Þórarinsson – OFI Crete – 13 matches
Kolbeinn Birgir Finnsson – Lyngby Boldklub – 9 matches
Daníel Leó Grétarsson – Sonderjyske Fodbold – 15 matches
Sverrir Ingi Ingason – FC Midtjylland – 47 matches, 3 goals
Hjörtur Hermannsson – Pisa SC – 27 matches, 1 goal
Guðlaugur Victor Pálsson – K.A.S. Eupen – 42 matches, 1 goal
Alfons Sampsted – FC Twente – 21 matches
Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson – Burnley – 90 matches, 8 goals (injured)
Ísak Bergmann Jóhannesson – Fortuna Düsseldorf – 24 matches, 3 goals
Arnór Ingvi Traustason – IFK Norrköping – 54 matches, 5 goals
Hákon Arnar Haraldsson – LOSC Lille – 15 matches, 3 goals
Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson – AFC Ajax – 1 match
Jón Dagur Þorsteinsson – OH Leuven – 33 matches, 4 goals
Mikael Egill Ellertsson – Venezia FC – 14 matches, 1 goal
Mikael Neville Anderson – AGF – 24 matches, 2 goals
Arnór Sigurðsson – Blackburn Rovers – 20 matches, 2 goals
Willum Þór Willumsson – Go Ahead Eagles – 8 matches
Orri Steinn Óskarsson – FC Köbenhavn – 6 matches, 2 goals
Andri Lucas Guðjohnsen – Lyngby Boldklub – 20 matches, 6 goals
Alfreð Finnbogason – K.A.S. Eupen – 73 matches, 18 goals
Albert Guðmundsson – Genoa CFC – 35 matches, 6 goals

Plans for New National Arena Announced

Laugardalur, Reykjavík

A new National Arena for sports will seat 8,600 attendees and be opened to the public in 2027 or 2028. At a press conference yesterday, Minister of Education and Children Ásmundur Einar Daðason announced an open competition for the design and construction of the building, which is to be located in Laugardalur in Reykjavík.

The National Arena will cost an approximate ISK 15 Billion [$110 Million, €100 Million] and will be in 55% ownership of the Icelandic state and 45% by Reykjavík city, Mbl.is reports.

Handball championship dreams

Iceland has a joint bid with Denmark and Norway to host the 2029 or 2031 World Men’s Handball Championship. When asked about the arena’s capacity, Ásmundur said jovially that that he could see the arena being completely packed with people “when Iceland becomes world champion”.

The design competition will be open to teams that include an architect, an engineer and contractors. Qualifying teams will receive funding to prepare a design proposal and a bid in accordance with specs and cost projections.

Football, track and field next

Two other sports-related construction projects are still in the early stages, a National Stadium for football and a National Stadium for track and field. Ásmundur said that the arena was being prioritised as it could be completed more easily and service youth sports and local sport clubs as well.

I’m looking for an old football programme from Iceland. Where can I look?

timarit.is morgunblaðið

We admit we’re a little out of our depth with this one as the original question specifically referred to a 1967 match between Aberdeen and KR.

Although we have already outlined some tips for antique hunters looking for Icelandic used books, vintage coins, stamps, and so on, we thought this was also a good opportunity to point amateur researchers and historians to some useful resources.

Tímarit (timarit.is) is an excellent place to begin if you’re looking for anything historical in Iceland. It’s a digitised database of nearly every newspaper that’s been in print in Iceland for the last century, meaning that every day’s headlines reaching back to the turn of the century are available for browsing, free, anywhere in the world. Other periodicals are also available on Tímarit as well.

A quick search turned up the daily news coverage of the match in question, for example.

Another useful resource that’s more specialised, but still worth pointing out, is handrit.is.

At Handrit, you can access digitised versions of manuscripts found in several major manuscript collections, such as the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, and collections at the National Library of Iceland.

While generally a tool for scholarly research, it’s free to use for all. Amateur historians can, for example, peruse the recently rediscovered manuscripts found in the archives at Handrit, and also access the original sources for much of mediaeval Icelandic literature.

Footballer, Sports Commentator Bjarni Felixson Passes Away

Bjarni Felixson

Veteran sports journalist and former Icelandic national footballer Bjarni Felixson passed away at the age of 86 yesterday, RÚV reports. Known as “the Red Lion,” Bjarni Felixson had a storied career in football before transitioning to journalism, where he became a household name.

“The Red Lion”

Veteran sports journalist and former Icelandic national footballer Bjarni Felixson passed away yesterday at the age of 86. As noted by RÚV, Bjarni was in Denmark to attend the funeral of longtime friend Finn Heiner. The duo originally met during their respective careers at RÚV and DR, Iceland and Denmark’s national broadcasters, forming a lifelong friendship.

Survived by his wife Álfheiður Gísladóttir, four children, and a combined 14 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Bjarni was born in Reykjavík on December 27, 1936. He gained prominence as a left-fback for the dominant KR team of the 1950s and ’60s, amassing five Icelandic championships and seven cup titles while earning six caps for the national team.

Known affectionately as “the Red Lion,” a moniker coined by his teammates, Bjarni Felixson came from a footballing family; both of his brothers also donned the national jersey. In 1963, all three of them played against England in an international match.

Colourful commentary

Bjarni Felixson transitioned into journalism in 1968, joining the National Broadcaster (RÚV), where he served for 42 years. He became a household name for his coverage of national and international sports, notably English football. Bjarni was known for his colourful commentary, once stating that a football team had “conceded a corner kick in a dangerous area.”

Bjarni witnessed the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, later recounting the emotional toll of reporting the event where 96 fans lost their lives.

Throughout his illustrious career, Bjarni received numerous accolades, including the gold medal of the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland (ÍSÍ) on his sixtieth birthday and an honorary plaque from the Football Association of Iceland (KSÍ). Last year, he was conferred the Knight’s Cross of the Order of the Falcon by President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson for his contributions to sports, social affairs, and communication.

Bjarni’s legacy extends beyond journalism and football; two Reykjavík establishments, the Red Lion and Bjarni Fel Sportbar, were named in his honour.

Cristiano Ronaldo: “Iceland Have a Very Good Team”

Football

The men’s national football team of Portugal trained at the Laugardalsvöllur stadium last night, in preparation for tonight’s game against Iceland in the UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying tournament. Cristiano Ronaldo, who expects “a tough match,” will play his 200th international match tomorrow.

Major milestone for Cristiano Ronaldo

Following a disappointing 1-2 loss against Slovakia on Saturday, Iceland’s men’s national football team currently sits fifth in Group J of the EUFA Euro 2024 qualifying tournament. The winners and runners-up from the ten groups will qualify directly to the final tournament, which will take place in Germany next summer (the other three qualifiers will come from play-offs based on last year’s Nations League: a total of 24 teams will compete in the finals).

Tonight, Iceland will face off against group leaders Portugal, who have won all of their three matches in the qualifiers. In preparation for the game yesterday, Cristiano Ronaldo fielded questions from the media at a press conference. He told reporters that he expected a tough game. “They [Iceland] have a very good team, in my opinion. They have a strong team. And, you know, when they play at home, it’s always tough to beat teams with their support, their fans, their stadium.”

Nonetheless, the Portuguese observed that he had full faith in his team: “I believe in our team. I believe in our players. We know what we should do on the pitch to score goals, and I hope that things go the way we want. I know it’s tough, I repeat. But I think Portugal, we should show that we have a better team than them.

As noted by RÚV, Ronaldo played his first international match on August 20, 2003, in a 1-0 victory over Kazakhstan. He was 18 years old. Tomorrow, some 20 years later, Ronaldo will make his 200th international appearance – a feat that no male footballer has achieved before – when Portugal faces off against Iceland at the Laugardalsvöllur stadium.

Swapping jerseys

The Icelandic national team last competed against Portugal at the 2016 European Championship when the teams drew 1-1. The game marked Iceland’s first match at a major tournament. As noted by RÚV, Aron Einar Gunnarsson, Iceland’s captain, attempted to swap jerseys with Ronaldo after the game – but was rebuffed. At yesterday’s press conference, Aron was asked if he intended to make another go at it tonight.

“I think I’ll let it go,” Aaron said with a grin. “It’ll be his 200th international appearance so he’ll probably want to keep his jersey. So I think I’ll let it be this time.”

Deep North Episode 30: Sparsity Blues

einherjar football iceland

It’s Saturday night – and it’s feckin’ freezing.

Seven below.

Even inside the Egilshöll stadium, my fingers feel like popsicles. Taking notes means pitting the will against whatever half-responsive nerve cells are relaying messages from my benumbed digits.

Inside the locker room, Sigurður Jefferson is screaming his testicles off.

But not because of the cold.

“We’re the only fucking football team in Iceland!” he yells. “We’re fucking Vikings!”

It’s not the most original of sentiments – but it gets his teammates going.

And they really need to get going.

It’s halftime, and the Einherjar – literally army of one, referring to the warriors in Norse mythology who met their death on the battlefield and then caught a Valkyrie-driven Uber to Valhalla – are 20 points down.

34-14.

They’re losing to a ragtag bunch of Romanians called the Bucharest Rebels.

Everything’s going goddamn terrible.

Read the full story here.

Glódís Perla Among Top 10 Footballers in Europe

Glódís Perla Viggósdóttir

Icelander Glódís Perla Viggósdóttir has been ranked the tenth-best footballer in Europe by football news outlet goal.com. The ranking described her as an “absolute rock” and an “integral part” of her team Bayern Munich’s defence, which only conceded seven goals in the entire 2022-2023 season. RÚV reported first.

In the early years of her career, Glódís, now 27, played youth football in Denmark. Her first senior club was Iceland’s HK/Víkingur. She made her national Icelandic team debut more than a decade ago, in 2012 and has played more than 100 matches with the national team.

Glódís played professionally in both Denmark and Sweden before signing with FC Bayern Munich in July 2021. She is not the only Icelander on the team, which also includes forward Karólína Lea Vilhjálmsdóttir and goalkeeper Cecilia Rán Rúnarsdóttir.

Other Icelanders that have seen success in European women’s football leagues in recent years include Sveindís Jane Jónsdóttir, a 21-year-old forward currently playing for VfL Wolfsburg, and former national team captain and European champion Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, a midfielder currently at Juventus F.C. Women.

Gylfi Sigurðsson “Welcome to Train” at Old Stomping Ground

Footballer

Footballer Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson is “welcome to train” at his old stomping ground at the football club FH, the club’s Head of Football Affairs told Fótbolti.net yesterday. Gylfi Þór arrived in Iceland last week, having been cleared of all charges following a nearly two-year detention in the UK.

“Always welcome”

Footballer Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson, who was recently cleared of all charges in the UK after a nearly two-year detention in England, arrived in Iceland last week.

Gylfi was raised at the sports club FH in Hafnarfjörður (near Reykjavík), and in an interview with fotbolti.net, Davíð Þór Viðarsson, the Head of Football Affairs at FH, was asked about the possible return of Gylfi to his home club.

“We haven’t spoken to him or anything like that, but, of course, he’d always be welcome to train with us. It goes without saying that he’s one of the very best footballers in Iceland. If he wants to train in Iceland, he’s certainly welcome to come train with us. And I think he knows that,” Davíð Þór remarked.

As noted by fotbolti.net, Gylfi will celebrate his 34th birthday in September. He last played a professional football match with Everton in the spring of 2021, more than two years ago.