Ticket to the World Cup Up for Grabs Tonight (Women’s Football)

The women’s national football team could qualify for the World Cup for the first time in its history. The team faces Portugal in the second round of the qualifying play-offs tonight in Paços de Ferreira, Portugal

Heartbreak during extra time

It was heartbreak in Utrecht on September 6; aware that a draw would suffice for its first-ever ticket to the World Cup, the women’s national football team fought hard to keep the score line at 0-0 after regulation time had elapsed – despite the patent superiority of the Dutch.

During the 91st minute, Dutch forward Esmee Brugts delivered a bullet pass into Iceland’s box, which sailed past her teammate Stefanie van der Gragt and Icelandic defender Glódís Perla Viggósdóttir – before winding in the far corner of Iceland’s goal.

It was a painful defeat – but all hope wasn’t lost.

Transforming feelings of loss

The women’s national team will face off against Portugal in the second and final World-Cup qualifying round at the Estadio Capital do Movel in Paços de Ferreira, Portugal at 5 PM tonight. A win will secure a historic ticket to the 2023 FIFA World Cup.

Speaking to Vísir, midfield Dagný Brynjarsdóttir stated that this would be the team’s third “big match” of the year. “We played against France and the Netherlands and neither of those games went our way. But hopefully, this third game will be different.”

Dagný hopes that she and her teammates will harness the feeling of losing against France and the Netherlands. “That’s a feeling that we don’t want to experience again. It’s up to us to do everything in our power to transform that feeling into something better and more fun.”

Iceland is currently ranked 14th according to FIFA; Portugal is ranked 27th. Nevertheless, Portugal has been in fine form, beating Belgium (ranked 19th) in early October; Turkey and Serbia in September.

The 2023 FIFA World Cup will be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand: the first time that the tournament will have two host nations. It is scheduled to take place from July 20 to August 20 2023.

Aron Einar Not Selected to the National Team Despite Availability

Aron Einar Gunnarsson - Iceland Football National Team

Aron Einar Gunnarsson, captain of the men’s national football team, has not been selected to the squad for upcoming games against Armenia and Liechtenstein for the World Cup qualifiers. While the team’s head coach Arnar Þór Viðarsson stated that he was not asked to exclude any players, and board members have denied any interference, Aron Einar maintains that the exclusion stems from the incoming board of directors yielding to “cancel culture.” The footballer contends that he was not selected to the squad because of rumours of sexual misconduct that he allegedly perpetrated in 2010. According to RÚV’s sources, police are reinvestigating the 2010 incident at the victim’s request.

Presumed to be fit

Yesterday, Arnar Þór Viðarsson, head coach of the men’s national football team, announced a squad of 25 footballers for the upcoming matches against Armenia and Liechtenstein for the World Cup Qualifiers. Among the names missing from the squad was Aron Einar Gunnarsson, captain of the team for the past decade and who was presumed to be fit.

Before the team’s press conference yesterday, rumours spread that the Football Association’s board of directors had prohibited Arnar Þór Viðarsson from selecting Aron Einar to the squad on account of the latter being implicated, without being named, in an incident of sexual violence occurring eleven years ago. According to mbl.is, who reached out for a statement, outgoing and incoming board members denied these allegations. Arnar Þór Viðarsson has also stated that he was not asked to exclude any players.

Aron Einar releases a statement

After the squad was officially announced, Aron Einar Gunnarsson released a statement to the Icelandic media accusing the Football Association’s incoming board of directors of excluding him from the team.

In the statement, Aron Einar explains that he had informed the Association that he was available, in shape, and had fully recovered from an illness. Furthermore, he had notified the Association that he was innocent of all accusations, referring to an incident of alleged sexual violence that occurred in Copenhagen in 2010. Given that the team has performed poorly over the past weeks, Aron Einar says that he was forced to surmise that his exclusion was not tactical but that the Association had decided to submit to the demands of cancel culture.

Aron Einar concluded his statement asking the police to allow him to give a formal statement regarding the incident in 2010. Mbl.is reported yesterday evening that the police authorities had decided to reopen the case; according to RÚV, charges had been brought against Aron Einar in 2010, but those charges were subsequently dropped.


Here is Aron Einar’s statement in full:

“As reported today, I was not among those players selected by coach Arnar Þór Viðarsson for the national team’s upcoming games. This exclusion follows my announcement to the Football Association that I was available, in shape, and fully convalesced following an illness. Furthermore, I had informed them that I had done nothing wrong, in reference to the alleged culture of violence within the Football Association, which has been widely discussed recently.

During the press conference, however, the reasons behind said squad selection were hardly discussed. I can only draw the conclusion that the incoming board of directors, whose election was not contested, had, without a mandate, exerted itself to cancel me, as reported on DV.is; the team’s recent results hardly suggest that sidelining the team’s most experiences players would be wise, which cannot be the reason for my exclusion. I have also not asked Arnar Þór to remain quiet about the reasons for his not selecting me.

For me, my family, and those friends who know me, it is deeply hurtful that the National Football Association, for whom I have given my all, for the past 97 national games, has decided to yield to demands founded on vague rumours about members of the national team. It puts one into an indefensible position.

On social media, an event that occurred in Copenhagen in 2010 has been widely discussed. I have not had the opportunity to discuss that event formally with the Football Association, have not been allowed to defend myself against these misdeameanours (sic), which is why I am hurt by this unceremonious dismissal. Furthermore, the police has never contacted me in relation to any investigation. I have never been notified that I was suspected of a crime and neither have I at any point been called into interrogation.

As a captain, I have long since learned to shoulder responsibility; cancel culture has recently been tolerated, but it should not be. And so while I reject all violence I declare that I have not been violated any person or woman. I refuse to play a codependent role toward the street justice, regarding an incident that supposedly occurred eleven years ago. If anyone has any criticism to level in my direction, I ask that same person not to show me any mercy, to accuse me by name, and give me the opportunity to defend myself. That’s honest. 

In light of all of this, I have decided to ask the police to allow me to give a formal statement about that night eleven years ago.”

Aron Einar Gunnarsson

Iceland’s World Cup Dream Over

The Icelandic women’s football team drew 1-1 against the Czech Republic today in a World Cup qualifier. Iceland was in pole position to qualify for the World Cup, which will take place in France next year, ahead of these last two matches in Group 5.

After being down 0-1 for the majority of the match, an equalizer from Glódís Perla Viggósdóttir brought Iceland level in the 87th minute. Iceland had the perfect chance to snatch the win in additional time but Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir missed a penalty which would have secured Iceland’s place in the play-offs.

Iceland lost 0-2 against group leaders Germany where a win would have sealed Iceland’s qualification. A win today versus the Czech Republic might have sealed Iceland’s spot in the World Cup playoffs, provided results in other groups went Iceland’s way. The four best 2nd placed sides from the 7 European qualification groups advance to the play-offs.

The Icelandic women’s team has previously gone to the final stage of the EURO competition three times. This would have been the first time Iceland competes at the World Cup finals. The team is currently ranked the 19th best team in the world, according to the FIFA world rankings.

Iceland Loses World Cup Qualifier Against Germany

The Icelandic women’s football team lost their World Cup qualifying match against Germany on Saturday, with a final score of 2 – 0, RÚV reports. If the team is going to have a shot at qualifying for their first World Cup ever, then, it’s imperative they win against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.

Iceland went into the match at the top of Group 5, with 16 points. Germany was ranked second in the group with 15 points. Had Iceland won, they could have been certain of a direct qualification. Only the group winners will go directly through to the next round, while the four best-ranked teams from the European qualifiers will have to go through additional playoffs.

Iceland started their sold-out homefield match looking strong, keeping the pressure on their opponents and preventing them from seeing much of the ball. As the first half progressed, Germany slowly won more possession but Iceland’s defense remained strong until the 42nd minute, when Svenja Huth scored. The first half ended 0 – 1, Germany.

Germany came out looking much stronger at the start of the second half, while Iceland had trouble keeping possession of the ball or making any goal opportunities for themselves. Svenja Huth then scored a second goal in the 74th minute. The final score was 0 – 2, Germany. The result puts Germany in first place in Group 5, with 18 points, while Iceland falls to second place with 16.

Germany’s last group match will be against the Faroe Islands, a game they are expected to win easily. As such, they will almost definitely go straight through to the next round. If Iceland wants a chance at the play-offs, then, they have to win against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.

Iceland’s Women One Win from World Cup

Tickets for the Icelandic women’s national football team match against Germany are nearly sold out, RÚV reports. The match takes place this Saturday at Laugardalsvöllur in Reykjavík. A victory would send the women’s team to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France next year.

It would be the first ever World Cup tournament for Iceland’s women’s team, which has never before qualified. The team, currently ranked 19th in the world, won their first qualifying match against the German team. Hopes will undoubtedly be high on the pitch this Saturday.

If the match could set another record if it sells out, as the team has never sold out a match at the Reykjavík stadium before. Tickets can be bought here.

To Russia With Love (the short version)

Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson

September 6, 2013. It’s a warm fall evening in Bern, and Iceland squares up against a much-fancied Switzerland side in a World Cup qualifying match for. Iceland, led by Swedish coach Lars Lägerback and his assistant, Heimir Hallgrímsson, have performed admirably so far in qualification. The dream of playing in fabled Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro, the home of football in Brazil, is still distant, however. After an unexpected Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson opener, the Swiss team appears to be a number too big for the Icelandic players, as Iceland find themselves 4-1 down 54 minutes in. After a quickfire Icelandic equalizer, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson steps up as he scores two breathtaking goals to draw the Icelanders level and complete his hat-trick – the first one that an Icelander has ever scored in a competitive match. The image of the Icelandic team celebrating still lingers in people’s memories. That night in Bern gave both the nation and the team a newfound belief – and Iceland hasn’t looked back since.

Five years later, Jóhann Berg is gearing up for the World Cup tournament in Russia. Although the surroundings will be different, the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow will be the setting of the same spectacle as the sandy beaches of Brazil promised some years back. The Icelandic team came so close in 2013, losing a play-off matchup against Croatia. The Croatians wait again this time around, as they have been drawn with Iceland in a group. Jóhann Berg is riding high into to the tournament, as he enjoyed a fantastic season with unfancied outfit Burnley in the English Premier League. He was voted into the ESPN Team of the year for players outside England’s top six and has provided 8 assists along with goals against stalwarts such as Liverpool and Manchester City. If anyone is ready for the World Cup, it’s Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson. We picked Jóhann’s brain on the upcoming World Cup, beating England at the EURO 2016, and his Counter-Strike skills.

Jói Bern and playoff heartbreak

After the hat-trick in Bern, Jóhann Berg received the apt nickname Jóhann Bern. “That night in Bern helped the team immensely. We saw how good we could really become. It was one massive step in the process of us going to the World Cup. It was a magnificent night for Icelanders as well as me personally. I will always look back fondly on that night.” The dream of qualifying for Brazil 2014 ended abruptly, however, in a two-legged playoff against Croatia. At the time, many Icelanders felt that they had lost their one and only chance and the players struggled with the defeat. “It was difficult to recover from that blow. There were many who believed this was the closest we would ever come to qualifying for the World Cup. What helped us immensely was to recover by qualifying for the EURO 2016. Then we managed, incredibly, to seal our ticket to the World Cup by coming in 1st place in a group with four teams who played at the EURO 2016.”

World Cup fever

Iceland is the smallest nation ever to reach a World Cup tournament, so Icelanders are eagerly waiting for the matches in Russia this summer. Qualifying for the World Cup is way bigger than we realize, I think. In a few years, we will look back on these achievements and realize how great they are. I’m just trying to enjoy the moment while it lasts.” He also recognises the pressure they’re under, as the team was the darling of the EURO 2016. “When you perform well, it makes people sit up and notice. There is pressure on us to do well after our performance at EURO 2016, but I’m not stressed about it. I am just going to play football at the World Cup and have fun. We can do great things if we give 100% in every match.”

An Icelander in England

The famous victory against England at the EURO tournament meant a lot for Jóhann as he lived in England during his teenage years, as well as currently playing in England. “It was extra sweet to beat England. Everybody in Iceland watches English football, and most support England at international tournaments.” Jóhann was on the books of Premier League clubs Fulham and Chelsea as a youngster but suffered an injury which forced him to return to Iceland “I got the taste of being a professional which gave me the extra motivation to return abroad to play. I knew I had the chance after I played one season at home in 2008, and that’s when I received my first international cap as well.” Jóhann was in England when they played at the 2006 World Cup, “If you told me I would play at the World Cup twelve years later with Iceland, I would have thought you were crazy. It was, of course, a dream of mine, but I thought it would never happen.”

The multitalented footballer

Jóhann Berg’s talents are not only showcased on the football field, as he is rumoured to have been a skilled player in the shooter video game Counter-Strike, “I played it a little bit too much at one time. I was good and enjoyed playing with my mates. Let’s just say I was not as good in Counter-Strike as I am at football.” Jóhann recently released a football trivia game in Iceland named Beint í mark, and fancies himself as a bit of a football trivia master “I know quite a lot about football as I both read extensively and watch a lot of games. I think I do alright.”

The golden generation?

Iceland has a great squad of players who play for each other, but what sets the team apart from other teams? “It is very difficult to break us down defensively, so we don’t concede a lot of goals. Couple that with the fact that we always believe we can score, you’ve got a great formula. We’re a difficult side to face as we’ve got big men up top who can win every header.” But is the current generation a so-called ‘golden generation? “It’s not a sure thing getting such a group of footballers together, we’re incredibly lucky. Everybody is willing to run until their lungs burst and we also happen to be good footballers. It’s going to be difficult to get another generation like this, but hopefully qualifying for big tournaments becomes a habit. We need to keep the same values we have today in order to enjoy success in the future.”

Facing superstars

Iceland’s opening match at the World Cup is against Argentina, where the players will face off against the genius of Lionel Messi. The Icelandic team faced a similar situation at the EURO tournament when the first challengers were eventual champions Portugal, starring the world-class Cristiano Ronaldo. When asked about the phenomenal challenge of facing Lionel Messi, Jóhann Berg remains undaunted “These are two of the best footballers in the world, it would be pure joy to get a result against Argentine as we did against Portugal. These players are on another level and play a completely different brand of football than we do. We will do everything to shut down Messi just as we shut down Ronaldo.”

Heimir Hallgrímsson

During Heimir Hallgrímsson’s reign as the Icelandic national team’s manager, Iceland has enjoyed unprecedented success, qualifying for the EURO 2016 and will now step on the grandest sporting stage of them all, the World Cup. By doing so, Iceland became the smallest nation ever to qualify for the tournament.

Heimir’s honest approach to work and life has gained him many admirers. A testament to how beloved he is by his countrymen, a hop-heavy pale ale named Heimir has recently been specially brewed in his honour. We sat down with the charming Heimir to discuss his background in dentistry, his philosophy, and how he plans to stop Lionel Messi this summer.

Team Iceland vs. Messi

Iceland will face off against Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria at the World Cup and the first hurdle at the tournament will be stopping Lionel Messi on the 16th of June in Moscow. “We always work as a team, even when facing superstars. We would never ask one player to stop Lionel Messi, it would be unfair. We do everything together – that is our philosophy.” Teamwork and unity is what sets Iceland apart from other teams. According to Heimir, “Our identity is based on working as a team. There are certain fields we want to be the best in and these are different from other nations. We are unique due to the players’ hard-working nature and unity we display on the field”.

Sharing top secrets

Heimir started out as assistant coach to Swede Lars Lagerback in 2011, at a point when interest in the Icelandic team was at a low and the team hovered around 130 on the FIFA World Rankings. Since Heimir’s work with the team started, Iceland has progressed step by step and is now ranked as the 22nd best footballing nation in the world. He took it upon himself to meet Tólfan, the Icelandic supporters group, in a small pub before the Icelandic team’s home matches. In the meeting, he discusses tactics and discloses the team’s starting line-up, sometimes even before the players themselves know the starting eleven. “Our relationship is on another level. This is unthinkable for other national teams. When we started out there were only seven people attending in a small room. It has grown since then, along with our respect for each other.” Heimir is not afraid to disclose secrets to the select group of fans, “No one wants to destroy this by leaking anything out.”

The optimistic Icelanders

The Icelandic nation eagerly awaits the World Cup, but what can the Icelandic team achieve at the tournament? “Optimism is in Icelander’s DNA so the people want us to win all of the matches in the group – it is simply in our nature. We are realistic however and know that we can everybody as well as lose. Even if we play our best possible match we can still lose against nations like Argentina. I think the best philosophy is to try to enjoy the tournament and approach the World Cup in as relaxed a mood as is possible. If we do our best, we have a chance”

Dentist turned coach

Heimir is a dentist by profession, having tended to the teeth of residents of the remote Vestmannaeyjar archipelago for years. Having now turned his attention fully to the national team, dentistry work is never far away. When attending a match in the women’s top division in his hometown, Heimir was called upon when a player lost a tooth after a clash. In typical unfazed fashion, Heimir drove her to his nearby office and stuck the tooth back in. His background as a dentist has helped him as a manager, as well “As a dentist, you deal with different people throughout the day. The person in the chair might be relaxed, anxious, agitated or desperately frightened. This one-on-one work helps when dealing with football players as you have to treat different people in different ways.”

The unorthodox coach

Heimir’s experience as a football manager differs from most of his colleagues at the World Cup. Heimir has a unique background as he started working as a youth coach with 6-year olds, progressing his career step by step towards coaching women. Transitioning from coaching women to the men’s game is a rarity in football. Since he started working with the Icelandic team he has risen from assistant coach to joint manager and after the EURO 2016, he was hired as the sole manager. “I think that no-one at the World Cup has taken this route in coaching – having such a long career as a youth and women’s coach. One role has led to another as I’ve always been trusted with larger roles. I have never in my life thought ‘What next?’. When I was coaching 6-year olds I really enjoyed it, living in the present and feeling good. Then when I coached a top division women’s team, ÍBV, I thought that was the biggest role I would take on. When you are in the present you give it your all and good things happen to you”.

The World Cup – a different beast

The Icelandic football association has felt the increased interest level around the World Cup. “When Iceland Review comes to a press meeting held by the Football Association of Iceland, it shows that the interest level is tremendous. There have been television crews here from Brazil, Japan, China and Argentina here for weeks on end. It is a great promotion for Icelandic football as it gains more respect worldwide.” When asked if the current success is sustainable, Heimir is not short for answers “The current atmosphere is that this success is completely normal – while there are large nations who have not made it to the World Cup. This team have gotten us to a place where we are among the best – which is a fantastic achievement. People will not realize for about 2 or 3 years how far this team has come. If we attain this level for years to come, we will not always qualify for large tournaments – but if we are in the fight it is a gigantic step for such a small footballing nation as Iceland is.”

Heimir for president?

After the Icelandic team’s success at EURO 2016, there were many who called for the Swedish coach Lars Lagerback to run for the President of Iceland. When asked if he will be in the same position if Iceland performs well at the World Cup, Heimir laughs “I know President Gudni Th. Jóhannesson well enough, and he can do no wrong. If he puts on the wrong pair of socks it simply becomes a trend. There is no-one who will overthrow him unless he decides to leave himself.” On that note, we say goodbye to Heimir and wish him well for the challenges waiting at the World Cup – Áfram Ísland!

Read the full article in the June-July issue of Iceland Review magazine. Subscribe here.