The Applause of a Nation: How Iceland shook Europe
(Posted on 15/07/16)
If asked two months ago about what you know about Icelandic football, we could have told you about three things. They play in blue, Eidur Gudjohnsen use to play for them and they somehow qualified for Euro 2016.
2016 has essentially been the year of the under-dog. However, Leicester’s Premier League win and Wales’ semi-final appearance at the championships almost pales into insignificance when you think about it.
Europe’s minnows, the smallest of the David’s who were about to face the biggest of the goliath’s. Commentators, pundits and journalists looked at them with glee whilst whacking out the biggest book of cliché’s they’ve got from the work desk draw.
You’d have to go a long long way to see where it all began for KSI
, so far back that the current squad would be in nappies. With the new structure in place from young children all the way to the senior team the love for the game has advanced to levels never seen before.
Just 330,000 people live on the Nordic island, less than the population of Coventry and the chance of an Icelandic citizen being in the national team is a thousand to one. But still the football association has managed to bring through some of the best talent in Europe with the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson.
progressed through the group stages drawing with eventual tournament winners Portugal as well as Hungary. A final group game win over Austria saw them qualify and all of a sudden the spotlight was on them.
However, spirit and determination would see them win the biggest game of their history. The nickname of the Icelandic football team is Strákarnir okkar, which for those of you who don’t speak Icelandic means ‘Our Boys’. That connection between fans and players (with many of the players claiming they knew half of those in the stadium) was key. The hand-clap trend that swept the Euro’s was of course all began among Icelanders, who blew the support of other nations away. Even Gareth Bale and Wales just had to join in following their Quarter-Final shock win over Belgium.
Losing to the host nation France 5-2 in the Quarter-Final was nothing to be ashamed of, and now the whole of Europe is sitting up and waiting to see what comes next from a country managed by a full-time dentist.
They won the hearts of millions wearing their traditional blue shirt with red stripe to represent the flag that they fall upon, alongside just over a quarter of a millions others. The Errea
design is smart and comfortable, but more than anything has created footballing history as the shirt that saw them see off England in the Round of 16, coming from a goal behind in the process.
But with such a talented squad and sheer togetherness, we hope there will be a lot more to come from the small nation with big heart, and that we see another shirt at either a World Cup or European Championships in the future.
Koma á Ísland!
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