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 Loses 4-0 to Germany in World Cup Qualifer

football soccer

The Iceland men’s national football team lost its world cup qualifier match in Reykjavík against Germany on Wednesday night, Vísir reports. This is Iceland’s fourth loss in six qualifying matches thus far. The team has lost five home matches in a row.

Germany took the lead in the fourth minute of the first half, with a goal by Serges Gnabry. Mark Antonios Rüdiger scored a second goal for Germany in the 23rd minute. Germany got its third goal after halftime, courtesy of Leroy Sané, and Timo Werner pounded the final nail in the coffin about a minute before the match ended.

Iceland remains, therefore, in the fifth seat with four points in the J-group, which includes Armenia, Germany, Liechtenstein, North Macedonia, and Romania. Iceland has four remaining qualifying matches: two home matches in October and two away matches in November.

Changes in starting lineup, Hannes retires

Head coach Arnar Þór Viðarsson and Assistant Coach Eiður Smári Guðjohnsen made six changes to the starting lineup ahead of Wednesday’s match. Hannes Þór Halldórsson started as goalie in place of Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson, who began the last two games. Jón Guðni Fjóluson and Ari Freyr Skúlason started as defenders in place of Kári Árnason and Guðmundur Þórarinsson. Guðlaugur Victor Pálsson was substituted in midfield for Andri Fannar Baldursson. Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson came in on the right wing and Þórir Jóhann Helgason on the left.

After the match, Hannes Þór Halldórsson announced that it was his last as part of the Icelandic National Men’s Football team. All together, Hannes played in 77 matches for Iceland—more matches than any other goalie in the history of Icelandic football. “I’ve played for the Men’s National Team for ten years now, almost to the day,” he said in an interview after the match. “I’m really proud of that and have had some incredible moments in this jersey—many of my best memories. But we’ve come to a generational changeover and we have so many great goalies, so I think this is the right time for me to step aside now and let them take the reins without me breathing down their necks. So this was my last game on the national team tonight—thank you all.”

Hannes might be leaving football, but that doesn’t mean he’s resting on his laurels. In 2021, he made his debut as a film director, with Cop Secret, which received positive advance reviews. Hannes directed and co-wrote (with Nína Pedersen and Sverrir Þór Sverrisson) the “raucously entertaining” spoof on the cop film genre.

See Also: Icelandic Football Requests Space To Enact Improvements

The Men’s National Football Team has been shaken of late by accounts of sexual assault. This has led to the resignation of director Guðni Bergsson and the entire board of the Icelandic Football Association. The Association’s CEO Klara Bjartmarz has taken an indefinite leave.

Meanwhile, a joint statement from The National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland, Íslenskur Toppfótbolti, and the Icelandic Football Association asked that Icelandic football be given room to follow through on the work they’re preparing to combat the issues raised in the past few weeks. The plan includes electing a new temporary board and organising a workgroup that will work on creating and reviewing the necessary work procedures to ensure the right reactions to reports of sensitive matters. The workgroup will cooperate with the communications advisor of sports and youth issues.

According to the statement, the reviewed work procedures will be implemented into all associated institutions of the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland, making the association as a whole more prepared to handle such issues professionally. They note that while Icelandic football’s reputation has been damaged, it also has the strength, ability, opportunity and powerful members to improve and meet the challenges together.

‘Working Quarantine’ for Icelandic Football Teams

Iceland football team

Icelandic club football teams that travel to Europe to play in international matches may undergo a ‘working quarantine,’ Vísir reports. This means they are allowed to practice together during the mandatory five-day quarantine between COVID-19 tests.

This was confirmed on Thursday by Víðir Reynisson, Chief Superintendent of Civil Protection in Iceland.

Football teams must apply in advance to do a working quarantine after their return from matches abroad, so it is unclear if the KR football team will be allowed to practice together over the coming days. KR returned to Iceland on Tuesday night after playing a match against Celtic in Glasgow, Scotland.

The team Breiðablik has applied for permission to do a working quarantine after returning from a match in Noway next week, and Víkingur R. intends to do the same in advance of their trip to Slovenia.

The fact that teams are allowed to train together while in working quarantine doesn’t change anything where match play against other local teams is concerned. There will still be no league matches during the five-day quarantine period.

The working quarantine regulations may also allow for FC Valur to host a qualifying match for to European Championships, scheduled to take place in October. Valur has applied for permission to do so.

FH will be playing a match against a Slovakian team in Hafnafjörður next week; according to Víðir, the Slovakian team will be allowed to arrive in Iceland the day before their match.

Similarly, national teams—such as Iceland’s men’s national team and that of England, who will play against one another at Laugardalsvöllur on September 5, will be allowed to enter the country right before match day and will not be subject to the five-day quarantine and double COVID test regulations.

“There are different regulations for this,” Víðir explained. “They are entering this ‘bubble,’ you could call it, which is created around these UEFA matches. Such that teams enter it while abroad—undergo screening abroad before they arrive in Iceland and are basically in quarantine before they get here. So they are tested here at the border and are allowed to train and play matches within the five-day timeframe if necessary.”

What Iceland Has to Do to Qualify for European Championships

Gylfi Sigurðsson football Icelandic national team

Chances for the Icelandic men’s national football team to qualify for the UEFA European Championships next year appear quite slim. In order to make it to the 2020 tournament, the team needs to win their upcoming matches against Turkey and Moldova, as well as see favourable outcomes from other matches in Group H.  The team lost 0-1 to France last Friday, however it won 2-0 against Andorra yesterday evening.

The Icelandic men’s national football team stands in third place in their group so far with 15 points overall. Turkey and France stand in first and second with 19 points each. Iceland would need to win both its upcoming matches to ensure qualification, which would additionally depend on Turkey losing its match against Andorra. Since Andorra has only won a single match in the qualifiers so far, that result is unlikely.

Icelandic football fans still have reason to hope, however, thanks to the UEFA Nations League, which offers Iceland a secondary route to qualify for the tournament.

Iceland Beats Turkey 2-1 in Euro Qualifier

Gylfi Sigurðsson football Icelandic national team

The Iceland men’s national football team beat Turkey 2-1 in a Euro qualifying match at Reykjavík’s Laugardalsvöllur stadium last night. Centre back Ragnar Sigurðsson scored both of the team’s goals.

Iceland started the game strong, scoring their first goal only 21 minutes in. The second goal came only ten minutes later, giving Iceland a 2-0 lead. Turkish midfielder Dorukhan Toköz did not let that score stand for long, scoring for his team at 40 minutes into the game for a final result of 2-1 for Iceland’s team.

France currently holds first place in Group H, Turkey second place, and Iceland third, followed by Albania, Moldova, and Andorra. Only the top two teams from each group will qualify for the UEFA Euro final tournament.

Turkey Denounces “Disrespectful” Treatment of Football Team at Airport

The Turkish government has issued a diplomatic note to Iceland denouncing what it is calling “disrespectful” and “violent” behaviour against the country’s men’s national football team, aa.com reports. The football team arrived in Keflavík airport on Sunday night in advance of their Euro 2020 qualifying match against Iceland on Tuesday. They claim that they were then subjected to excessive search and security measures at passport control and were held for around three hours before being allowed to leave the airport.

A representative from Isavia, the company that owns and manages the Keflavík airport, told RÚV that per international regulations, airport employees were obliged to conduct a security check on the team and that it was more intensive because the flight on which the team arrived departed from an airport that is not part of the One Stop Security area whose security protocols apply to all airports in the EEA. Isavia maintains that as such, all of the passengers on the flight were subjected to the same security checks – including Icelanders. Isavia also says that the security checks took an unusually long time on Sunday night because passengers were traveling with a high number of electronic devices and liquids in their luggage, all of which needed to be individually screened.

Isavia contests Turkey’s claims that players were held for three hours, however: they say that the security wait was 80 minutes from the time that the aircraft arrived. The flight arrived at 7.40pm, representatives say, and the last passenger went through customs at roughly 9.00pm.

Feelings are running particularly high in the wake of the event, with some players on the Icelandic squad and Icelandic sports journalists even receiving threats over the matter. It’s likely that tensions were exacerbated during an interview that Turkish midfielder Emre Belozoglu gave after going through security; an individual who has since been identified and is presumed to be a Belgian national stuck a dishwashing brush in the player’s face like a microphone while he was being interviewed by reporters.

Turkey and Iceland do not maintain embassies in each other’s countries, but Fazli Corman, Turkey’s ambassador in Norway, is apparently on his way to Iceland to follow up on the situation. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also posted about the incident on Twitter, saying “The treatment towards our national team at the Iceland airport is not acceptable in terms of both diplomatic and humanitarian practices.”

Iceland Wins Euro Qualifier Against Albania, 1-0

Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson

The Icelandic National Men’s football team won its Euro 2020 qualifying match against Albania on Saturday, with a final score of 1-0, mbl.is reports. Iceland earned three points as a result of the win.

Although Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson, who scored the winning goal during the 22’ minute, admitted to Vísir that the game “wasn’t pretty,” he and his teammates were thrilled with the result, which brought Iceland up to six points in the group. Albanian coach Edoardo Reja didn’t mince words when asked about the final score, however, saying that Iceland’s win was “undeserved,” and that it was the kind of match in which the team that scored first was likely to come out the victor.

“As I’ve said many times, Icelanders are very strong physically – particularly in the air – and as such, Albania kept the ball mostly on its own half of the pitch and tried to find a hole in Iceland’s defense. That would have been possible if the game had evolved differently. But then we made terrible mistakes in our defense, such that three players were like bowling pins – just stood there and did nothing but make horrible mistakes. It was that kind of game – where the team that scored first was more likely to come out victorious.”

The match was a scrappy one, with Iceland on the receiving end of more fouls than Albania. When asked if his team had played a rough game, Reja replied that it was “…a hard game, but football is a hard game” and moreover that he thought that Iceland’s players had a tendency to dive rather easily.

Regardless of how elegant the match was (or wasn’t), Johann Berg reiterated that it was an important one for Iceland to win, both in terms of the points earned and the expectations it sets for Iceland in the long term.

“Everyone’s been saying that we’re old, tired, and the game wasn’t sold out, which is unusual for us. We were determined to win the match.”

Iceland is currently in third place in their qualifying group, on six points. Turkey is in first place with nine and France is in second with six. The team’s next match will be against Turkey on June 11.

Iceland Wins First Euro 2020 Qualifying Match

Iceland’s national men’s football team won its first UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying match against Andorra on Friday, RÚV reports. It is the team’s first victory under new coach Eirik Hamrén, following the departure of Coach Heimir Hallgrímsson, who led the team to their historic World Cup debut in 2018.

Much as expected, Iceland took control of the game from the start and Birkir Bjarnason took the first shot on goal only eight minutes into the match. Minutes later, Ari Freyr Skúlason made a great cross to Alfreð Finnbogason in the goal area, but surprisingly, Alfreð’s shot went right over the goal.

Andorra had five corner kicks in the first 20 minutes of the game, but didn’t manage to make anything of these opportunities. In the 22nd minute, Iceland got its first corner. Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson directed the ball to Ragnar Sigurðsson, who headed it into the far post. Birkir Bjarnason was quick to take a rebound shot, which finally found its target. The score was 1 – 0 at the half.

The second half got off to a slower start, with very little action for the first 15 minutes of play. Rúnar Már Sigurjónsson then came in for captain Aron Einar Gunnarsson. Aron, who underwent knee surgery in April 2018 after sustaining an injury while playing for Cardiff City F.C., immediately had to ice his knee after coming off the field, but is expected to be in good shape to play Iceland’s next qualifying match against France in Paris on Monday evening.

Viðar Örn Kjartansson came in for Alfreð Finnbogason in the 70th minute and ten minutes later, he received a right cross from Birkir Már Sævarsson and scored the second and final goal of the match. This was Viðar Örn’s third goal with the national team.

Iceland Manages Draw Versus World Champions France

France snatched a draw from the Icelandic men’s national football team yesterday, RÚV reports. The friendly match took place in Stade de Roudourou in Guingamp. Iceland led 0-2 before succumbing to heavy pressure from France.

The Icelandic team led 0-1 going into half-time after a goal from midfielder Birkir Bjarnason. Defender Kári Árnason scored a header from a corner kick early in the second half to bring Iceland’s lead to two goals. Wonderkid Kylian Mbappe, substituted on in the second half, changed the match in France’s favour. After having a goal disallowed due to offside, Mbappe’s shot forced defender Hólmar Örn Eyjólfsson to score an own goal, before drawing France level from the penalty spot in additional time.

The match is the 18th ever between the two teams, who last met on the pitch in 2016 during the quarter finals of the UEFA Euros. While Iceland has never won against the French team, they have managed a draw in four games.

Iceland was coming off two heavy defeats in the UEFA Nations League, 6-0 versus Switzerland and 0-3 versus Belgium. Iceland team will face Switzerland on Monday 15th October, 18.30 GMT. The match will take place at Laugardalsvöllur stadium, Reykjavík.

Match events:

30′ – Goal – Alfreð Finnbogason

58′ – Goal – Kári Árnason

86′ – Own goal – Hólmar Örn Eyjólfsson

90+2′ – Goal – Kylian Mbappe

Men’s Team Down 10 Spots in FIFA Rankings

The Icelandic men’s national football team is down 10 spots in the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, sitting in 32nd place. RÚV reported first.

The team has enjoyed great success recently, qualifying for their first ever World Cup tournament last fall, and reaching a record 18th place ranking in February 2018. The team currently sits just behind Iran and ahead of Ukraine.

The Icelandic women’s national team held on to their 19th place spot in the latest rankings, on the heels of Switzerland, in 18th place, and ahead of New Zealand, in 20th.