Iceland’s Hopes of a Medal Dashed

Iceland men’s national handball team lost to Germany in their main round match-up of the 2024 European men’s handball championship yesterday. The defeat means that the team now has no chance of climbing the standings to reach the knockout rounds and compete for a medal.

Iceland still has a chance of winning enough games to secure a spot in the Olympics qualifiers to be held in March. They must win at least two of their last three games for that to be possible, Morgunblaðið reports. Reaching the qualifiers is Iceland’s last chance to compete for a berth at this year’s Summer Olympics in France.

A tough defeat

The match took place at the Lanxess Arena in Cologne, with rivals Germany enjoying home court advantage as hosts of the tournament. Germany led by one goal at half-time, but when 10 minutes were left, Iceland took its first lead of the game. By the end, Germany pulled back in front and held on to their lead. Iceland’s top scorer was Janus Daði Smárason with six goals. Juri Knorr scored six for Germany as well.

“I’m hurt, upset, and bummed out,” coach Snorri Steinn Guðjónsson told Morgunblaðið after the game. “At the same time, I’m proud of the boys.”

Icelandic record broken

Iceland will face France Saturday, Croatia Monday and Austria Wednesday. Iceland needs at least two victories against these tough opponents to reach the Olympics qualifiers and must secure more points than at least one of Austria, Portugal, Slovenia and the Netherlands to stand a chance.

An Icelandic record was broken yesterday when France’s 40-year old Nikola Karabatic scored his 289th goal in his European championship career. The record for most goals in the tournament was previously held by retired Iceland player Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson, who scored 288 competition goals during his illustrious handball career.

Farewell, Guðjón Valur: Iceland’s All-Time Top Scorer Retires

Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson Icelandic handball player

Icelandic handball player Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson has announced his retirement from the sport. Guðjón Valur, who will turn 41 this fall, concludes his career with Paris Saint Germain.

A long and illustrious career

Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson was born on August 8, 1979. He began his career with Grótta in Seltjarnarnes, before moving north to Akureyri and joining KA. He played his first match with the national handball team in December 1999. Guðjón Valur went on to play for seven clubs in four countries, among them Rhein-Neckar Löwen, AG København, and FC Barcelona Lassa. He won his first Champions League title in 2015 with Barcelona. He joined Paris Saint-Germain in 2019.

For over three decades, Guðjón Valur has enjoyed a remarkable career with Iceland’s national team. He has participated in ten Euros, eight World Cups, and three Olympics. He won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics and a bronze medal at the 2010 EHF Euro.

Yesterday, Guðjón Valur announced his retirement on Instagram: “Well, it’s come to that time in my career that all athletes reach eventually. After 25 years at the senior level and 21 years in the national team, I’ve decided to retire … I would like to thank all those who have stood by me through thick and thin.”

All-time top scorer

Guðjón Valur is Iceland’s all-time top scorer. He scored a total of 1,879 goals in 365 games, which also makes him highest-scoring handball player in the history of international competition. Guðjón Valur is also the EHF’s Euro’s all-time top scorer. He was the highest-scoring player at the 2007 World Cup, as well.

“One just wants to be a good person”

Iceland Review spoke to Guðjón Valur earlier this year, in the lead-up to the 2020 European Men’s Handball Championship. Asked to speculate upon his legacy, Guðjón Valur told IR that it was for others to judge: “I just hope that I leave as few people disappointed as possible. As time goes by, one just wants to be a good person. To make good decisions. I don’t worry about the handball so much; so long as one works hard, it’ll be fine.”

Another God%$#n Sports Interview

Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson Icelandic handball player

When we arrive on the third floor, the press conference has already started. My shoes make horrible squeaking noises on the parquet and people turn around to look at me. I lean against the nearest wall as if it were an old friend, assuming an attitude that is at once outwardly cool and inwardly neurotic.

In front of me, seated at the table – along with his coach, a fellow teammate, and a representative of the Icelandic Handball Association, I’m guessing – is my subject. He is staring down at the table and fidgeting incessantly with his pen. Remaining silent for almost the entirety of the news conference, he interjects only once, when head coach Guðmundur Guðmundsson fields a question about the team’s video analysis of opponents.

“We watch more than enough videos,” my subject says, grinning. “There’s nothing that we … that we don’t get to see,” he concludes, in a statement that seems almost lecherous – accidentally full of sexual innuendo.

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Men’s National Handball Team Prepares for Euro 2020

Captain of the National Handball Team Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson

The Men’s National Handball team will play its opening match at the 2020 EHF European Men’s Handball Championship against Denmark next Saturday, January 11. Team captain Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson, who turned 40 last summer, will be competing at the EURO for the eleventh time. In an interview yesterday, Guðjón Valur expressed his gratitude for still being able to compete at the highest level.

The 2020 EHF European Men’s Handball Championship will take place between January 9 to January 26. It will be the first time that competition is co-hosted in three countries, Austria, Norway and Sweden. Iceland was drawn into Group E alongside Denmark, Hungary, and Russia.

At a press conference held at Alvogen headquarters in Reykjavík yesterday afternoon, Iceland Review spoke to captain Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson. He will be competing at the EURO for the eleventh time. No other Icelandic handball player has participated in the competition as often. Guðjón Valur admitted that a lot had changed in his roughly twenty-year career with the national team.

“You learn from the mistakes you’ve made; from the coaches and the teams you’ve played with; from the poor performances; from that meal you ate too close to game time. As you grow older, you begin focusing more on sleep, diet, mental health. Everything. Whether that’s experience speaking or just me getting older and more emotional – I can’t say. Hopefully, you grow wiser, smarter, and more crafty as you grow older. It would be a shame if I were making the same mistakes today as when I was twenty.”

Guðjón Valur played his first match with the national team in December 1999. No other outfield player has played as many matches for the national team. Guðjón Valur is also the highest-scoring handball player in the history of the national team.

“I have learned a lot from having spent my entire life as a handball player.”

When asked about the biggest change, in terms of stepping onto the court today as compared to 20 years ago, Guðjón Valur spoke of gratitude.

“Today, I’m just grateful for being able to do this. I don’t take it for granted anymore. When one is 20, 25 years old, everything is a piece of cake. One stays up later, sleeps less, and can eat hamburgers and hot-dogs every meal. When one reaches one’s forties, however, sleep becomes more important. So does spending time with family.”