Olympics Dream Over for Iceland

The Iceland men’s national handball team saw its hopes for a berth at the 2024 Summer Olympics in France slip away last night. Despite beating Austria 26 to 24 in a pivotal game yesterday afternoon, an unfavourable result in another match meant that Iceland would not move on to the Olympics qualifiers in March.

Iceland’s team has not appeared in the Olympics since the 2012 London games. The team has historically been competitive on the international stage and handball remains very popular in Iceland. The team’s greatest success was the silver medal in the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

Victory in a must-win game

Iceland faced Austria in a must-win game yesterday, the last one of the main round. The team’s hopes of advancing to the knockout stage had already been dashed, but an important consolation prize loomed if everything went right; placement in the Olympics qualifiers.

Iceland saw its first half lead slip away in the second half as the offence stagnated. Scoreless for a 14 minutes stretch, Iceland was still able to secure the victory by two goals in the end. Both starting goalkeepers, Austria’s Constantin Möstl and Iceland’s Viktor Hallgrímsson, played superbly. Sigvaldi Björn Guðjónsson scored eight goals for Iceland and Aron Pálmarsson seven.

France too strong

With a victory in hand, Iceland’s team would need to wait for results from the match between France and Hungary. France had already secured a spot as one of the four teams to move on to the second round, while Hungary would stand a fighting chance with a win over France. A Hungary victory or a tie would have given Iceland a shot at the Olympics qualifiers. However, France proved too dominant and secured the victory.


Coach Snorri Calls for Tactical Rethink After Hungary Defeat

Head coach Snorri Steinn speaks to RÚV after yesterday's game

Iceland’s men’s national handball team suffered a 25-33 defeat against Hungary in the 2024 European Men’s Handball Championship but still advanced to the intermediate round due to Montenegro’s win over Serbia. Coach Snorri Steinn Guðjónsson expressed disappointment with the team’s performance, particularly in the second half, and acknowledged the need for tactical adjustments before their upcoming matches against Germany, France, Austria, and Croatia.

Disappointment after heavy defeat

The men’s national handball team suffered a heavy defeat against Hungary last night, 25-33, in the 2024 European Men’s Handball Championship. Despite the loss, Iceland has advanced to the intermediate round, thanks to a victory by Montenegro over Serbia. The team advances into the intermediate round with zero points and a negative-eight goal difference where four games await. Viggó Kristjánsson was Iceland’s top scorer with eight goals.

Snorri Steinn Guðjónsson, head coach of the national team, was understandably disappointed after the game. Speaking to RÚV after the match, Snorri described the second half as terrible and believes his attackers need to improve their efficiency.

“These are big disappointments. But we did not deserve anything more from the game. The performance was lacklustre, and the second half was terrible.”

When asked about a possible lack of spirit in the team, he replied, “We just collapsed and became listless. What worked in the first half – the defence and the intensity – just wasn’t there in the second half. One thing led to another. Turnovers and missed opportunities. It’s the same story. One thing leads to another. When nothing is right, naturally, the game goes like this.”

No clear explanation

Snorri had no ready answers about what was affecting their efficiency. “It’s just poor. We can’t find explanations for it. It’s something the players need to buckle down on. It goes without saying that at this level, such lapses can’t be afforded.”

Snorri added that whenever a team becomes guilty of so many technical errors and poor execution, the game is a foregone conclusion. He also discussed the lack of shots from range. Snorri took responsibility for the loss, adding that the coaching team would need to review the performance. “I take the blame for the tactical approach to the game. It was not good enough. The opportunities we’re getting, we’re not utilising them. But I need to delve into it.”

Ahead are four games in the intermediate round against Germany, France, Austria, and Croatia.

“This was our first match in the intermediate round — and we lost. Consequently, we have no points to carry forward. This makes our journey tougher. There’s little time between matches, but that doesn’t alter the fact that we need to critically analyse our performance. We must make some adjustments because this approach isn’t delivering results in the intermediate round.”


Powerlifter Elsa Pálsdóttir Sets Three World Records in Budapest

Icelandic powerlifter Elsa Pálsdóttir set three world records at the European Masters Classic Powerlifting Championships in Budapest, Hungary, yesterday. Elsa, who’d been nursing a minor groyne injury in the run up to the competition, told Mbl.is that she was delighted by her achievements.

A world-record squat

When we met powerlifter Elsa Pálsdóttir last year, she concluded our interview by saying that she hoped to defend her powerlifting titles in the future and that she was convinced that there was “room for improvement.”

“As long as I have my health, I’ll keep at it,” Elsa remarked. “And as long as I’m having fun. That’s why I do this; you’ve got to enjoy yourself, too.”

Read More: Staying Power (an interview with powerlifter Elsa Pálsdóttir)

Elsa certainly appeared to be enjoying herself at the European Masters Classic Powerlifting Championships (held in Budapest, Hungary) yesterday. Competing in the 60-69 age group, Elsa set three world records and one Icelandic record over the course of the three events (there were four other women in her weight class, i.e. -76 kg).

The champion powerlifter spoke to a reporter from Mbl.is at the end of the night: “I began by lifting a safe 125 kg in the squat,” Elsa observed. “I then attempted 138 kg, which is half a kilo over the world record. I failed the first attempt, so it was do or die on the next one – and the bar went up.”

This would prove to be Elsa’s first world record of the day.

More world records

During the bench press, the sexagenarian opened with 62.5 kg – just three kg lighter than her Icelandic record. She followed this lift by successfully bench pressing 67.5 kg, an Icelandic record. Her final attempt was 70 kg, which Elsa did not manage to lift.

Next up, the deadlift.

Elsa faced tough competition in the final event. She began with a safe lift of 155 kg and then managed a remarkable 163 kg, thereby breaking two world records – one in the event itself and another in the total weight lifted across all three events. Elsa’s joy was, however short-lived. A Finnish competitor lifted 167.5 kg, surpassing Elsa’s achievement and setting a new world record.

Elsa was not ready to give up. She asked for 170 kg to be loaded onto the bar – and then slowly pulled the weight off the ground, thereby setting yet another world record: her third of the day, across the squat, deadlift, and combined events.

As noted by Mbl.is, one could say that Elsa set four world records (if one includes the initial deadlift record, which only stood for a few minutes).

“I feel great”

“I feel great,” Elsa told Mbl.is. “It was a great relief to manage 138 kg in the squat. I’ve been increasing the load in training, but because I’ve been nursing a minor groyne injury, I’ve struggled a bit with the depth of my squat. My record in Iceland is actually 142.5 kg, but it isn’t a valid world record because it was not set at an international tournament.”

Elsa also shed some light on her rivalry with the Finnish competitor.

“This Finnish woman entered my age group at the end of the year; she was born in 1963 (Elsa was born in 1960). I had a bit of an advantage over her in the squat; a half a kilo on her in the bench press; but, prior to this tournament, we were on equal footing when it came to the deadlift  – so I knew that it would be quite the battle,” Elsa remarked. “I thought it was incredibly sweet to set a world record, see it taken from me, and then get it back.”

When asked about her preparation for the tournament, Elsa replied that the training had gone well, aside from the groyne injury: “It went very well. I’ve been lifting well, but I’ve been struggling with this groyne injury, so we needed to adjust our training a bit so that it wouldn’t interfere with this tournament. But otherwise, the preparation went very well,” Elsa replied. As noted in our long-form article on Iceland Review, Elsa is coached by Kristleifur Andrésson, to whom Elsa refers as “her rock.”

Elsa concluded by saying that light training would be up ahead over the next few weeks and that her dream was to defend her World Masters Women’s Classic Championship title, which she won in October of last year in Canada. “But this year’s tournament will be held in Mongolia, which means a lot of travel and high costs. Nevertheless, that’s our aim, and we hope to begin preparations in a few weeks.”

Iceland Proceeds to Main Round in 2022 Handball Championships

Iceland handball men's national team

The Icelandic men’s national handball team will proceed to the main round of the 2022 European Handball Championships after winning all three of their matches in the preliminary round. They beat the Hungarian national team 31-30 in an exciting game in Budapest last night. The Iceland team finished the preliminary round at the top of its group with six points, and carries over two points to the main round thanks to their victory over the Netherlands.

The 20,000-seat handball stadium in Budapest was packed for last night’s Iceland-Hungary match. While Iceland supporters numbered just around 500, the Icelandic Handball Association reports that they made themselves heard throughout the match. The match itself was tense, with Iceland only leading by one point throughout most of the first half and Hungary equalising at 17-17 in the last few seconds before halftime. The score was equal 15 minutes before the end of the match, but Iceland’s tight defences in the second half eventually helped ensure the 31-30 victory.

Iceland plays its first match in the main round against Denmark tomorrow, January 20. On January 22, the team will play France, followed by Croatia on January 24, and Montenegro on January 26.

Icelanders Disappoint the Danes at 2020 Euro

Danes Exit Euro 2020

The Hungarian national handball team defeated Iceland in the teams’ final game of the 2020 Euro group stages. As a result of the Icelanders’ loss, the Danish national team was eliminated from the competition. The Danish press expressed its disappointment following the Danish exit, Vísir reports.

Following a six-goal loss against Hungary yesterday, the Icelandic national handball team advances to the main round of the 2020 Euro (with zero points). As noted by the Danish Jyllands-Posten, “what Hungary and Iceland have in common is that they will play their first game of the main rounds on Friday. Denmark will not.”

The Danish press has criticised the performance of the Danish national team ever since its loss against Iceland last Saturday. The criticism continued yesterday. The Danes did, however, secure a consolation victory against Russia yesterday – in a game that, as far as the competition went, meant nothing.

“No help: Danes exit the Euro,” a headline from Ekstra Bladet reads. Other observations include, “Iceland couldn’t help the Danes” and “the Danes needed the Icelanders’ help to advance to the main round, but no such thing happened.”

Claus Møller Jakobsen, a commentator with TV 2 Sport, agrees that there is no other word for the Danes’ performance than “fiasco.”

“There’s no doubt that this is a fiasco. Denmark has, in two games, not displayed the quality the team possesses.”

Iceland will face off against Slovenia tomorrow at 3 pm in the team’s first match in the main rounds.

Icelander Cleared of Attempted Hijacking

An Icelandic man who tried to break into the cockpit of a passenger jet on its way to Keflavík on Thursday will shortly be allowed to return to Iceland and is not being charged with attempted hijacking, RÚV reports. The plane was rerouted to Stavanger, Norway and the incident initially reported as an attempted hijacking, but Norwegian police now believe that the man—who later said that he couldn’t remember anything of what happened on board—is ill and doesn’t pose any further threat.

The Wizz Air flight in question was en route to Iceland from Hungary early on Thursday morning when an Icelandic passenger in his sixties tried to break into the cockpit. The flight crew rerouted the plane to Norway where police boarded the plane and arrested the man. Before long, authorities in Norway reported that there was no evidence that the man was actually trying to hijack the plane; he was, however, believed to have been under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

The Icelander cooperated with Norwegian police and appeared to have no memory of the incident. Statements taken by witnesses aboard the flight corroborate the police’s version of events. He will need to be questioned by police once more on Friday but is unlikely to be charged as authorities believe that he was not in his right mind. After Friday’s interview, he will be allowed to return to Iceland.