Men’s Football Team Takes on France in Crucial Match

Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson

The Men’s National Football Team will compete against France tonight in a crucial match for the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers. France will be hoping to overtake group-leader Turkey (the two teams are level on points although Turkey has conceded fewer goals). Meanwhile, Iceland is also challenging for the top two places (Iceland is three points behind Turkey and France). The top two teams in each group qualify.

Iceland and France have gone head-to-head a total of 14 times. Les Bleus have been victorious ten times, with four matches resulting in a draw (France leads 41-12 on aggregate). During the two teams’ first match in 1957, during the World Cup qualifiers, France embarrassed Iceland with an 8-0 rout.

In March, the two teams faced off in Paris for their first match in the qualifiers. France beat Iceland 4-0.

Both teams will play without their team captains: Icelandic midfielder Aron Gunnarsson (Al-Arabi) and French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) have both been ruled out with injuries. Iceland will also have to do without Hörður Björgvin Magnússon (CSKA Moscow), while Les Bleus will be without Paul Pogba (Manchester United) and Kylian Mbappé (PSG).

As RÚV reports, however, France will field a strong team. Antoine Grizemann (Barcelona); Raphael Varane (Real Madrid); N’Golo Kanté and Olivier Giroud (Chelsea); Kingsley Coman, Lucas Hernández, Benjamin Pavard and Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich) are all expected to play.

Italian Gianluca Rocchi will officiate.

The match – which is long since sold out – will begin at 18:45 at Laugardalsvöllur stadium in Reykjavík tonight.

Iceland qualified for the UEFA European Championship for the first time in 2016. The team advanced through the group stages and secured a 2-1 victory against England in the round of 16. The lost 2-5 against France in the quarter-finals.

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.”

Sara Björk and Gylfi Þór Named Footballers of the Year

The Football Association of Iceland (KSÍ) has named Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir and Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson Footballers of the Year, RÚV reports.

Sara Björk is a midfielder for the German club VfL Wolfsburg, which won both the German division and Cup titles this year, as well as playing in the Women’s Champion League final against Lyon. Sara Björk is also the captain of Iceland’s National Women’s football team.

Gylfi Þór is a midfielder for the Premier League club Everton. He has scored seven goals this season and made two assists over the course of 17 matches. Gylfi Þór is also a key player on Iceland’s National Men’s team and played in all three Iceland matches during the 2018 World Cup. He scored one goal during the competition, during their final group match against Croatia.

KSÍ ranked Augsberg’s Alfreð Finnbogason and Kristianstad’s Sif Atladóttir in second place this year. Burnley’s Jóhann Berg and Rosengård’s Glódís Perla Viggósdóttir came in third.

Iceland Men’s Football Coach Resigns

Heimir Hallgrímsson announced this morning his decision to step down as coach of the Iceland men’s national football team, RÚV reports. He explained the decision at a press conference at 11.00am this morning.

Heimir was appointed as assistant coach when Lars Lagerbäck took over the men’s team in 2011. He became co-head with Lars in 2014, leading the team to the UEFA Euro Championship quarter-finals in 2016. Heimir then took over as the team’s only head coach, leading it to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in it’s history.

Heimir says he has worked well with everyone involved in the national men’s team. “I’m really proud and it’s a privilege to be able to leave the situation the way it is today,” he stated. “It’s great to say how much more professional everything has become than it was. We have a very well-defined work environment.”

“Maybe then the question arises: then why are you leaving if everything is so great?” Heimur remarked. “If I were to continue, I would probably continue with the same focus, the same emphases, and at some point the motivation would fade, fatigue would come.”

Heimir added that the team’s success is not attributable to just one person, and that there were too many individuals responsible to thank each by name.

His next career move is yet to be decided, Heimir says, adding that he had received inquiries from both national and regional teams. Although he is interested in applying his skills outside of Iceland, Heimir says the time has not yet come to make a move abroad.