Iceland Vs Austria: UEFA European Championships 2016: Team Captain Aron Gunnarsson has the ball.

Football in Iceland | The Secret to Success

Michael Chapman
By 
Michael Chapman
Verified expert

Football has found a new home in Iceland, with the Men's and Women's national teams reaching new and unexpected heights in both international and European competitions.

Football has found a new home in Iceland, with the Men’s and Women’s national teams reaching new and unexpected heights in both international and European competitions. But what is the secret to their success? How did an island with only three months of sunlight rise 91 places on the FIFA world ranking over just five years? Read on to find out all there is to know about football in Iceland. 


Header Photo: "2016 Sports Photo of the Year" (Iceland) by Vilhelm Gunnarson


Contents
                       4.1  Iceland V England: UEFA Euro 2016
                      6.1 - Grassroots Football in Iceland
                      6.2The Icelandic football league 
 

If you would like to learn more about the domestic clubs and leagues that can be found in Iceland, rather the national team in particular, make sure to read our blog: The Top Football Clubs in Iceland. 

The World Cup Dreams of A Nation 

Iceland will be the smallest team to ever compete in the World Cup.Credit: TayebMEZAHDIA

Iceland became the smallest nation to ever compete in the FIFA World Cup when in 2018, the team went to Russia. At home, the fans were giddy with excitement, ready to prove what their national was capable of on the world stage, ready to shake the world of football up by its studded boots. 

But in the super strong group D, Iceland went on to draw against Argentina (1-1) in the first match, before losing to both Nigeria and Croatia, and thereby finishing at the bottom of the group. The adventure was over before it properly began. 

A Day To Change History                   

Picture the scene; June 27th, 2016. It is a half-clouded afternoon over the grassy embankment of Arnarhóll; all eyes are fixated on the enormous screen erected adjacent to Ingólfstorg Square. The scene is loud, rowdy and excitable, as any good football crowd should be. Thankfully, there's little reason for concern; hooligan culture is non-existent in Iceland; besides, this crowd is behind one national side and one national side only. 



 June 27th 2016; an impassioned crowd of football fans culminate at Arnarhóll to watch England vs Iceland.Credit: KSÍ - Knattspyrnusamband Íslands Facebook 

For anyone at the scene, avoiding the united exhilaration was simply impossible. Hundreds, if not thousands, of animated Icelandic fans roared together, their cries of “Afram Island!” (“Onwards Iceland!”) as loud and primal as the unified Viking Clap ringing through the air. And yet, despite their collective passion and amalgamate joy, the scene felt eerily dreamlike and surreal; what we had all just witnessed couldn’t have been real, could it

The final whistle blow marked a turning point in sporting history; 2-1 victory to Iceland over England…



Three Lions on the Shirt  England? Football’s Coming Home England? Multi-million pound, premier-league, sponsorship-sodden, post-Brexit England? No, this wasn’t a loss of our faculties. This happened. The deafening hustle of ecstatic Icelanders could not be denied. They had won.

The question then, of course, was how did this young, handsome and tattooed squad of Viking athletes conquer and humiliate the three lions with such grace? If looking for clues, some commentators could have looked back to the 2014 FIFA World Cup playoffs.

Despite being knocked out of the running by Croatia—a punishing red card left Iceland a man down—the Icelandic side had shown themselves to be fierce competitors, more than a match for the Croatians who, at that time, were celebrating a winning season.

Iceland's 2016 victory over England in the European Championships was the footballing equivalent of David toppling Goliath.Credit: KSÍ - Knattspyrnusamband Íslands Facebook 

But that couldn’t be the full story, could it? There have been flash-in-the-pan miracle stories in football before, after all; Estonia’s winning streak in the 2006 World Cup, for instance, or Denmark’s shock victory in Euro 2012. But the tactics on display here—the smash-and-grab, guerrilla manner of taking the ball, the defensive blockades, the opportunistic teamwork—it all pointed to a team invested in mastering the game and bettering their side.

It was in stark contrast to the English, whose lackadaisical approach to the match disrobed them, for that evening at least, as the inferior competitors.

The Icelanders were on their way to the quarter finals of the Euro 2016, preparing to face the French national side on their home turf. And who now knew what to expect? No longer were the international commentators so mocking and dismissive of this tiny team from a tiny populace. Now they were the true underdog story of the European Championships; a team that Europe, and the world, could get behind.

2016 was the year the famous Viking Clap became a symbol of Iceland's sporting triumphs.Credit: KSÍ - Knattspyrnusamband Íslands Facebook 

Since that day, professional Icelandic footballers have been considered national heroes here. Their victories sparked a flurry of passion, interest, emulation and ambition in Iceland, creating a footballing renaissance that has far outstripped the country’s national sport of handball.

And although the Icelanders would go on to lose 5-2 against France, they had achieved a victory quite unlike anything before seen in this country’s sporting history, a history that has not always been so kind... 



Early History of Football in Iceland                      

The vast majority of pitches in Iceland were once turf and gravel. Today, indoor soccer houses make training possible all year round.Credit: KSÍ - Knattspyrnusamband Íslands Facebook 

Iceland’s much-cherished landscape—a cacophony of sweeping volcanic hills, dried lava plateaus and ominous mountain ridges—has until recent history been inhospitable to those who fancied football as a pastime. Pitches were, at best, either sand, gravel or flatbeds of dried magma. Naturally, there was no opportunity to play or train during the snow-laden winter months, leaving roughly three months of the year in which the weather was permissible. 

The Icelandic national team did not play on grass until as late as 1957, though the island’s first football club, Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur (Reykjavík Football Club), has existed since 1899. Given the harsh and unmanageable conditions, it is little wonder the Icelanders have always considered themselves disadvantaged when it comes to outside arena sports. 

The Icelandic football league, Úrvalsdeild karla, was conceived of in 1912. With the league's founding, a number of clubs quickly began to form.

Iceland has historically performed rather poorly in football; it is only recently that people have taken notice of the team's newfound skills.Credit: KSÍ - Knattspyrnusamband Íslands Facebook 

Iceland's first international match was against the Faroe Islands on 29th July 1930, culminating in a 1-0 victory over the home side. The country's first FIFA affiliated match was at home on the 27th July 1946 against Denmark. The Icelandic side would go on to lose the match 3-0.

Undeterred, they achieved their first international victory a year later against Finland. Throughout this period, Iceland did not participate in any World Cup or European qualifying matches. This all changed from 1974, with Iceland participating in the qualifying playoffs of every tournament since.

Iceland’s most humiliating defeat came at the hands of their old colonial overseers, Denmark, in a 1967 friendly match that ended with a staggering 14-2 defeat. Iceland even has a beer named after this defeat, Nørrebro / Borg 14-2, best enjoyed chilled whilst watching the below video.

 

It wasn't until the turn of the century that the Icelandic national team began to make its presence known. Despite failing to qualify, Iceland came close in Euro 2004, finishing third in the group and one point behind Scotland, only narrowly missing their chance to proceed. Again, in 2014, Iceland nearly became the smallest side to ever reach the World Cup playoffs but was held off with a 2-0 loss to Croatia.

With perseverance and the leadership of coach Lars Edvin "Lasse" Lagerbäck, the team finally hit upon a major breakthrough in 2015. Two victories over The Netherlands meant that they would be the first Icelandic squad to break their way into a major European tournament; the Euros 2016. Throughout the qualification process, the team managed to reach 23rd on the FIFA World Ranking, they're then highest ever grade. In July 2017, Iceland would be ranked number 19. 



UEFA European Championships 2016                        

Iceland Vs Austria: UEFA European Championships 2016: Team Captain Aron Gunnarsson has the ball.Wikimedia. Creative Commons. Credit: Tobias Klenze 

On the 13th October 2015, Iceland finished 2nd in the qualifying stage of the 2016 European Championships. Out of ten games, the newcomers had won 6 matches, drew 2 and lost 2. The country’s first ever tournament match was to be against Portugal, a prize contender and the expected champion by far.

The match began poorly for Iceland, with Portugal’s Nani landing the first goal at thirty minutes. After twenty minutes of fierce play, Iceland equalised with a goal from centre midfielder Birkir Bjarnason. Against all odds, the match ended with a draw, sparking much excitement in the football community.

Having drawn 1-1 with Iceland in the first round-fixture, the superstar team Portugal had taken a thorough knock back, whilst the Icelanders had surprised the world with their courage, ability and team spirit.


Naturally, there was vocal dissent on the side of the defeated Portuguese, in particular, Cristiano Ronaldo, who was one of the first to express his lack of enthusiasm for this burgeoning fairy tale.

Ronaldo would later comment, ‘I thought they had won the Euros the way they were jumping around at the end. It was unbelievable. When they don’t try to play and just defend, defend, defend, this, in my opinion, shows a small mentality and they are not going to do anything in this competition.

This coming from a man who was denied private changing facilities at the modest Laugardalsvöllur stadium.

A beautiful example of the 'Ronaldo Dive.' Lagerback would speak of it, "Portugal have one of the best players in the world in Ronaldo but he’s also an excellent actor. In the final of the Champions League against Atletico, we saw another performance from someone who could be in Hollywood. I don’t like that. I’d like it if they were able to watch the videos to retrospectively punish that sort of thing."Credit: KSÍ - Knattspyrnusamband Íslands Facebook 

Iceland’s coach was quick to respond to the comments, nonchalantly stating ‘he can do what he wants, we’re just happy with the point’. Defender, Kári Árnason responded that Ronaldo was ‘a sore loser,’ adding, ‘He didn’t want to lose the game. What does he expect – for us to play like Barcelona against him? He fannies about and dives around. We didn’t pay any extra attention to him.’

The Icelandic side had two major breakthroughs in the 2016 European Championships. There was a momentary lapse in their next match against Hungary, with Birkir Sævarsson giving away points with an own goal. Still, the final whistle concluded with a 1-1 draw and highlighted the newcomers as a force to be reckoned with.

It was in their final game of the qualifying round with Austria, however, that would push Iceland to meet supposed champion teams of football. Arnór Ingvi Traustason’s breakaway goal in extra time won the game 2-1 to Iceland. For the first time in tournament history, Iceland would meet England on the field.  

Iceland V England: UEFA Euro 2016                  


Before the team’s match with England, The Guardian newspaper pointed out the Icelandic side’s strengths throughout the tournament; strengths that Roy Hodgson would have to watch out for carefully if he hoped to avoid a humiliating defeat. In retrospect, it looks as though Hodgson might have missed that particular article.

Amongst these strengths was the calm, composed and unorthodox collaboration between coaches Heimir Hallgrímsson and Lars Lagerback, the pair of them making a stark contrast to Hodgson, the then highest paid football manager in history (£4.6 million per year). After all, Lagerback had previously coached the Swedish and Nigerian national teams, while Hallgrímsson still worked as a dentist in his hometown.

And yet, most important of all, it was noted that the Icelandic team had a unique bond with their fans. Given the gravity of the team’s achievements and the small population of their home country, the players could claim confidently that they knew ‘at least 50% of the Icelandic crowd’.

This was hardly surprising given that one-eighth of Iceland’s total population had travelled to France in support whilst 99.8% of all Icelandic televisions were tuned in to watch the game at home. This undying support on behalf of the Icelandic fans is why they have been given the collective title “Tólfan” (“The Twelve”), as in they are the twelfth player on the pitch.

Iceland was heavily praised for its tightknit performance against England, whose arrogant approach quickly turned desperate.Credit: KSÍ - Knattspyrnusamband Íslands Facebook 

The game itself was soon underway, with England showing an urgent superiority over the Icelanders within the first few minutes. In the fourth minute, England midfielder Raheem Sterling was brought down by Icelandic goalkeeper (and film director) Hannes Þór Halldórsson, earning England an early penalty. Minutes later, Wayne Rooney scored the first goal of the match, driving the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of the net, just out of reach of Hannes' dive.

Yet, less than a minute later, an equaliser! Team captain, Aron Gunnarsson—already famous for lobbing the ball into the penalty area—led to Ragnar Sigurðsson's shot from the edge of the six-yard box. The gravity of that goal took the world by surprise, least of all the England squad.

An early knock back had resulted in a slap in the face for the three lions, and now the pressure was on to ensure their already-promised victory went without a further hitch. What should have been a sure three points was now turning into the must-see match of the tournament.

Team Captain Aron Gunnarsson was a true force throughout the match, setting up goals and keeping his team strong on the attack.Credit: KSÍ - Knattspyrnusamband Íslands Facebook 

The next fifteen minutes saw England regain their composure, maintaining ball control and firing off a few misplaced shots. It was met by another slap in the face; Kolbeinn Sigþórsson's low shot was met and obstructed by England goalkeeper, Joe Hart, but it wasn't enough to stop the ball sliding from his grasp, rolling at a leisurely pace into the back right-hand side of the net.

Iceland was 2-1 up in the first half; as Irish sports journalist, Barry Glendenning, wrote at the time, 'England has been beaten by a supermarket!'

At half time, England was facing a crippling humiliation. Already, the tide had turned against Joe Hart who, despite appearances, had been labelled one of the world's greatest goalies. There was, however, still forty-five minutes to get their act together; victory could be clutched from the jaws of defeat.

At the second half whistle, it was clear however that the English side was feeling burdened. Their desperate long shots across the pitch meant Sterling was forever chasing the ball; Hannes was there to meet him each time, further frustrating the losing side. 

Iceland's victory over England championed them as the true underdog story of Euro 2016. Despite the fact they would go on to lose against France, they had achieved new heights in Icelandic sporting history.Credit: KSÍ - Knattspyrnusamband Íslands Facebook 

In the 56th minute, Ragnar again was presented with a chance, swinging his legs in a spectacular bicycle kick that, unfortunately, was met directly by the English goalkeeper. It was, however, a clear indication that the English were outstripped that evening, their athleticism predictable and disjointed. 

Regardless of the ensuing substitutions, England could do nothing to claw back. The Icelanders were playing remarkably well and to their strengths, while the English embarrassed themselves enough that Hannes Halldórsson had little to do in the second half.

After three minutes of extra time, the final whistle was blown. 2-1 to Iceland and the victors stormed the pitch, yelling and whooping in jubilation alongside their hysterical fans.

England could not hide the gravity of its loss, with Roy Hodgson resigning immediately following the game. But this was not England's night—or week, given the Brexit result—but only Iceland's, whose sheer pride could not be restrained.

Still, there was no one quite so excited as this particular Icelandic commentator;

"This is done! This is done! We are never going home! Did you see that? Amazing! I can't believe it! This is a dream. Never wake me from this amazing dream! Live the way you want, England! Iceland is going to play France on Sunday. France Iceland! You can go home. You can go out of Europe. You can go wherever the hell you want. England 1 Iceland 2 is the closing score here in Nice. And the fairytale continues!" 

The commentator, Guðmundur Benediktsson, had previously shown his excitement with Iceland's win against Austria, as shown in the video below. 

The Icelandic Women’s National Football Team           

Ranked 19th in the FIFA world ranking in June 2017, the Icelandic women’s national football team has, once again, shone a light on the passions of Icelanders everywhere; Euro 2017 is upon them, and just as with ‘our boys’, the nation is resolutely behind them.

It is the third time the women’s side have reached the finals. The current squad is coached by Icelandic football player and manager, Freyr Alexandersson, whilst Margrét Lára Viðarsdóttir serves as team captain.      

Iceland's women's national football team readying themselves for a match.Credit: KSÍ - Knattspyrnusamband Íslands Facebook 

Due in large part to Iceland's grassroots football scheme, there are a great number of young girls who are now inspired to compete professionally. Unlike elsewhere, the small population and community spirit of Iceland means that the general populace is just as interested in supporting and following women's football.

This is especially the case when our girls represented Iceland overseas, as they will in Euro 2017.  

Many Icelanders travelled to the Netherlands to support their team, including celebrities and the Icelandic president. To show their loyalty, a large number of football fans even culminated at Keflavík Airport to wave their team goodbye and wish them luck. 


 


Iceland's first match of Euro 2017 was against France. The team lost 1-0 to the French side—ranked 3rd on the FIFA world ranking—the referee having awarded their opponents a penalty kick in the 86th minute. Eugénie Le Sommer scored for France, leaving a disappointing result for the Icelandic side. Throughout the match, the French pressure was ever keeping the Icelanders in their own half, making a second goal more and more unlikely. It should be noted that France is the expected favourite to win the championships. 

The team's second match in the UEFA Euro 2017 was against Switzerland, with Fanndís Friðriksdóttir taking the early lead for Iceland with a goal in the thirtieth minute. Lara Dickenmann scored the equaliser twelve minutes later. The match's second half saw a focused play on both sides, though Switzerland's control of the ball and opportunistic shooting sealed them a second goal in the 52nd minute. Despite eleven minutes of extra time, Iceland could not secure a victory, meaning their time in this year's competition is now past. 

Interest in women's football is on the rise worldwide. Iceland is an example of country whose full spirit is behind their sporting champions, women and men alike.Credit: KSÍ - Knattspyrnusamband Íslands Facebook 

The women's side has had a number of achievements in the past; the team reached the group stages of the UEFA Women's Euro 2009 in Finland and the quarterfinals of UEFA Women's Euro 2013 in Sweden. Their biggest victory ever occurred in 2009, after beating the Estonian team 12-0 in Reykjavík. Their biggest losses occurred against Germany in 1996 (8-0) and the United States in 2000 (8-0). 

As with the Men's Team, Icelandic airline Icelandair has done their part to support the women's team, starring them in the below advert. The advert does much to show the difficulty often associated with women and young girls trying to get into male-dominated sports.



The team also stars as the focus for the documentary 'Stelpurnar okkar' ('Our Girls'), directed by Þóra Tómasdóttir and Hrafnhildur Gunnarsdóttir, a film detailing the team's journey through the UEFA Women's Euro 2009

KSÍ | Football Association of Iceland                

The Football Association of Iceland (Knattspyrnusamband Íslands, KSÍ) is the overall governing body of football in Iceland. Despite the seemingly unpronounceable name, 'Knattspyrna' means "ball-kicking" in Icelandic. 

The Iceland's Under 19s Men's Side.Wikimedia. Creative Commons. Credit: Ivar1988

Founded 26th March 1947, KSÍ is in charge of: both the Men’s and Women’s National teams, the Icelandic football league (Úrvalsdeild karla), coaching and referee education, licensing and nurturing a domestic interest in the sport. KSÍ joined FIFA in 1947 and UEFA in 1954.

Guðni Bergsson is the current President of Football Association of Iceland, having been elected 11th February 2017. Guðni began his own football career with the Icelandic club, Valur F.C, before fostering ambitions to play overseas. After an initial trial with the English club, Aston Villa, Guðni later took a position with Tottenham Hotspur, where he stayed as a defender from 1988 to 1995. During his tenure at the club, Guðni also became Captain of the Icelandic national team.

From 1995 to 2003, Guðni played for the both the Bolton Wanderers and the national team. After his retirement, Guðni would go on to host a popular hit-television show around football, ‘Boltinn með Guðna Bergs (Ball with Guðni)’, and worked as a certified lawyer in Reykjavík.

Grassroots Football in Iceland                            


Many have argued that Iceland is far outstripping the rest of the world when it comes to grassroots football. This has not always been the case, but the propulsion in talent, energy and interest can be traced to the beginning of the millennium when the country invested in building large, indoor arenas called “Soccer Houses”.

Traditionally, football had always been a summer sport in Iceland given the strong winds, rough terrain and inhospitable temperature. Sports enthusiasts would spend the winter playing the country’s national sport of handball or even basketball. And yet, with the introduction of artificial pitches, the opportunity for aspiring footballers to train the year round was suddenly a reality.

With an emphasis on training, sessions are open to kids as young as four. By seven-year-olds, the young ones have the chance to be training three times a week. By 2016, Iceland had 600 elite coaches trained, one per 550 people. To put that in perspective, England has one elite coach for every 11,000 citizens.

Icelandic football league (Úrvalsdeild karla)                   

The Úrvalsdeild karla is the highest football league in Iceland, ranked 35th worldwide by UEFA. Since 1912, the league consisted of ten different clubs - that is until 2008 when the league was extended to 12, a bid on the part of the Icelandic Football Association to strengthen interest in the sport domestically. The league is sometimes referred to as "The Pepsi League" thanks to the sponsorship of Icelandic subsidiary, Ölgerðin. 

The Icelandic football league is the perfect training ground for future star players, with many having graduated from the grassroots football scheme.Credit: KSÍ - Knattspyrnusamband Íslands Facebook 

All clubs in the league play two games, one at home and one away.  Due to the country's cruel winters, the season occurs between May and September, with the two lowest clubs relegated to Division 1. The two top clubs from Division 1 are promoted to the Úrvalsdeild karla.

The current champions are FH, from Hafnarfjörður, a powerhouse of a football team since the early millennium. It is the eighth time the team has been crowned champion of the league. However, the Reykjavík side Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur holds more overall wins, having been victorious 26 times over the leagues century old history. Valur F.C. is a close second, with 20 wins. 

League clubs play in both the Icelandic Cup competition and the Icelandic League Cup. Winners of the former competition (founded 1960) qualify to play in the UEFA Europa League, with finals taking place at Laugardalsvöllur in mid-August. The Icelandic League Cup, also known as 'The Deildabikar', is considered the third most important competition in the country. Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur is the current champion of Icelandic League Cup. 

Key Players in Icelandic Football                

Albert Guðmundsson

An old team photo: Albert Guðmundsson is on the far left.Credit: KSÍ - Knattspyrnusamband Íslands Facebook 

Albert Guðmundsson (1922 - 1994) was Iceland’s first professional footballer. As a young man, Albert played for Valur before leaving for Scotland to study business at Skerry’s College in Glasgow. During his stay in the city, Albert would continue to nurture his ambitions as a footballer, playing for the Scottish club, Rangers F.C. He would later go on to play as an amateur for the London club, Arsenal F.C.

Having caught the eye of French athletic scouts, Albert would go on to play with Football club de Nancy, a now dissolved team (1968), finishing the season as top goal scorer, as well as having scored at least two goals in every cup game. Following his time at FC Nancy, he was signed to AC Milan. Unfortunately, a knee injury ultimately severed his contract with the club and, after recovery, Albert would return to France, playing for clubs such as RC Paris and Nice F.C.


After retiring from professional football, Albert joined the Independence Party in 1970, becoming a councilman for Reykjavík in the same year. In 1974, he was elected as a member of the Alþingi; ten years later, he enjoyed time as Minister of Finance and Minister of Industry. After his resignation, Albert made a presidential bid, but lost to Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the world’s first democratically elected female President.

Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir

Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir in a match against Estonia in 2011.

Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir (born 29 September 1990) is a professional Icelandic footballer who currently plays for the German club, VfL Wolfsburg.

It seems Sara Björk was always destined for professional football, having joined her local team, Haukar, at six years old, staying for a further twelve. She would later join Breiðablik for three seasons before transferring over to the Swedish club, LdB FC Malmö. She was an immediate success in Sweden, scoring 12 goals towards  Damallsvenskan title.

She has represented the Icelandic national team since 2007 (aged 16) and has played in the UEFA Women's European Championships in 2009, 2013 and 2017. Sara Björk also served as Team Captain for Iceland during Margrét Lára Viðarsdóttir's maternity leave. 

Eiður Smári Gudjohnsen


Eiður Smári Guðjohnsen (born 15 September 1978) is a prolific Icelandic professional footballer, playing primarily as a forward. He is the son of former Iceland player, Arnór Guðjohnsen; his international debut, in fact, came after he was brought on as a substitute for his father in 1996. 

Amongst his many achievements are a stint at the English premier league club, Chelsea F.C. and a stay at a Barcelona F.C. He also had two spells at Bolton Wanderers, though there was a fourteen-year gap between these placements. On top of that, Eiður has played for Monaco, AEK Athens and for the Chinese super league team, Shijiazhuang Ever Bright.

He has also served as captain of the Icelandic team until the side was taken over by coach and former Iceland player, Ólafur Jóhannesson. Eiður has scored over 150 goals throughout his professional career. His most recent international game was against France in Euro 2016. 

Gylfi Sigurðsson

Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson celebrating a goal score!Credit: Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson Facebook. 

Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson (born 8 September 1989). Gylfi is the highest paid Icelandic footballer in history, earning 40 million ISK per month. He made his debut for the Icelandic national team in 2010. 

Gylfi currently plays as a midfielder for the Welsh club, Swansea City.  He began his professional career within Icelandic professional football, playing for Fimleikafélag Hafnarfjarðar in 2002, then later for the Kópavogur side, Breiðablik. He made his overseas debut at Reading F.C. playing for their youth club under an Academic scholarship. Gylfi was one of five students who were picked up for a professional contract following the scholarship.

Whilst at Reading F.C. Gylfi became the clubs largest ever sale, moving to German Association football club, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.  During this period, he was voted as Player of the Season twice, once at Reading, the other with Hoffenheim. He would later be loaned to Swansea, and later, to Tottenham Hotspur.  

Margrét Lára Viðarsdóttir

Margrét Lára Viðarsdóttir is one of Iceland's star players and the face of women's football in the country.Wikimedia. Creative Commons. Credit: Anders Henrikson

Margrét Lára Viðarsdóttir (born 25 July 1986) is an Icelandic professional football player and current captain of the women's national team. As a striker, Margrét made her Úrvalsdeild debut at 15 years old, quickly transferring over to Valur where she became a prolific goal scorer.

Her talents were soon noted, and Margrét was pursued doggedly by international clubs, as well as making her 2001 debut with the youth Icelandic national side. The now defunct German club, FCR 2001 Duisburg, was the first to sign her, leading to a one year stint with the team from 2007. The next year, she returned to Iceland to play for Valur F.C. In 2003, she first began to play for Iceland's woman's side. 

Since then, she has played for the clubs: Linköpings FC, Kristianstads DFF, Turbine Potsdam. Her sister is Elísa Viðarsdóttir, who plays defence for the national side. 

Iceland & 2018 FIFA World Cup 


Over recent months, Icelandic footballers have, once again, set out to prove their Viking ancestry, smiting their opponents with tact, grace and a blazing ambition. For sports fans, this is history in the making, another major boost to Iceland’s reputation around the globe. 

Iceland was placed in Group I of the qualifying rounds for the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia, alongside Kosovo, Turkey, Croatia, Ukraine and Finland. For the most part, the qualifying rounds were about as entertaining, and rewarding, as the sport can get. From the beginning, the Icelandic team made incredible strides towards cementing their homeland’s place in footballing history, having caused major upsets with a 3-0 victory over Turkey, a 2-0 win over Ukraine and a 1-0 final score against Croatia.


Out of 10 qualifying games, Iceland bagged a more-than-respectable sixteen goals, with only one underlying draw, seven victories and 2 losses. The sides’ final qualifying match against Kosovo was always going to be one of the major highlights of the tournament for Icelanders, an anticipation fuelled all the more given Kosovo’s performance throughout (8 losses and 1 draw, 0 victories). 

The final game saw Iceland score 1 goal in the first half, and another one in the second, the final score being 2-0 in Iceland's favour.

And so, with Iceland’s place in the World Cup now firmly established, football fans across the world eagerly await the sides’ impact. After all, this is the team that beat England 2-1 at the Euros.

With that in mind, any concept of putting boundaries and barriers around their potential seem defunct. With an ever emerging talent pool and a determination that outmatches even the established championship teams, Iceland’s shot at lifting the World Cup is as good as anyone else's. Who would have ever considered that?


Did you enjoy our article about Football in Iceland? Who will you be supporting as your team through the 2018 World Cup? Make sure to leave your thoughts and queries in the Facebook comment's below. 

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Guide to Iceland | The Story of the Leading Travel Agency of Iceland

What is Guide to Iceland? When was Guide to Iceland founded and why? How has Guide to Iceland changed since its conception? Continue reading to learn all about the leading travel agency of Iceland. Find the widest range of tours on offer in Iceland Discover How to Travel in Iceland | The Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts Watch these Amazing Videos of Iceland Browse these 10 Pictures of Iceland You Won’t Believe are Real Since its inception, Guide to Iceland has set out a simple mission: to provide the best services, tours and prices for travellers to Iceland seeking the holiday of a lifetime, while maintaining a strict ethics policy to protect the country’s nature and history. It is primarily a marketplace for tours, the ultimate online travel agency, but more than that, it is an encyclopedia on all things Icelandic; a social network connecting visitors to locals; a reference guide for natives and foreigners alike; and a code of conduct for all who wish to explore this delicate land. In less than a decade, it has grown from an idea between friends to the largest travel agency in the country. Partnering with over a thousand operators and providing services in eleven languages, the mission to provide the visitors with the widest range of choice possible for a holiday tailored to their needs has been a resounding success. Looking for the perfect wedding, weekend city getaway, or ultimate adventure in some of the world’s most dramatic wilderness? Seeking to find the Northern Lights on a budget, or to explore the whole country in comfort and luxury? Want to plan a holiday in Iceland but have no idea what is on offer or where to go? Guide to Iceland has you covered. Contents 1 - History of Guide to Iceland 2 - Guide to Iceland Today 3 - Guide to Iceland Awards 4 - Booking a Tour with Guide to Iceland 5 - Renting a Car with Guide to Iceland 6 - Planning Your Drive with Guide to Iceland 7 - Learning About the Country with Guide to Iceland...

Midnight Sun in Iceland

When does the midnight sun in Iceland take place? How long does a sunset or a sunrise last? How long is the period you can experience the midnight sun in Iceland? How do you sleep during the midnight sun? Read on to find out everything you need to know about the glorious Midnight Sun in Iceland!  Dip into the largest selection of Midnight Sun Tours in Iceland Midsummer is the time of the Midnight Sun! Learn about Iceland in June! June is the perfect time for this 5 Day Summer Package with Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Learn about Iceland's Seasonal Contrasts  Get to know the Weather in Iceland & Best Time to Visit  Iceland: The Land of the Midnight Sun The peak of Iceland's Midnight Sun is around the summer solstice, normally the 21st of June From May to August midnight has daylight in Iceland, although the sun sets just before midnight You can experience the brightness of the Midnight Sun in Iceland between mid-May until mid-August Iceland's hours of daylight on the longest days of the year is 24 hours per day (May-July) Iceland's hours of daylight on the shortest days of the year is 4-5 hours per day (December-January) Iceland's hours of daylight increase by 1-3 minutes every day between December 21 and June 21 Iceland's hours of daylight decrease by 1-3 minutes every day between June 21 and December 21 The Midnight Sun can be seen everywhere in Iceland The Midnight Sun can be seen in Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, Canada, Norway, Sweden,  Finland, Northern Russia and of course at the North Pole and the South Pole The Midnight Sun occurs because the Earth's axis tilts towards the sun in summer  The days are long during the summertime in Iceland. Although the Midnight Sun peaks in June, then Iceland’s nights are bright as early as May and as late as August. This is due to Iceland's proximity to the Arctic Circle; in actual fact, the Arctic Circle does cross over Iceland, just, incorporating Grímsey island at the northernmost tip of Iceland. Iceland is...

Top 10 Beautiful Waterfalls in Iceland

Iceland is a country of many amazing waterfalls, but which are the best ones? Where do you need to travel to find the most spectacular waterfalls? Are there waterfalls all around the country? Continue reading to discover the ten most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland.  Book a Nature Tour and intimately experience Iceland's natural beauty  See Iceland's largest selection of Waterfall Tours  Learn all you need to know about the Icelandic Rivers that feed the country's waterfalls  Embark on River Tours for up-close encounters with Iceland's water systems  10. Kirkjufellsfoss This small and charming waterfall is situated near the impressive Mount Kirkjufell at Grundarfjörður on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. For photographers, it is particularly scenic when you capture the serenity of the water against the dramatic mountain in the background. It best experienced in the light of the midnight sun in midsummer, but also fascinating when caked in ice come midwinter.  Find Snæfellsnes tours here 9. Hraunfossar These stunningly beautiful falls, located in Borgarfjörður in west Iceland, are formed by rivulets flowing at the edge of the Hallmundarhraun lava field, pouring into the glacier river Hvíta (not to be confused with a different river of the same name that feeds Gullfoss waterfall, discussed below). The Hraunfossar falls, though peaceful and serene, are widely considered some of the most spectacular in Iceland. Their location is also very convenient, as they sit right beside Barnafoss, another dramatic waterfall. 8. Bruarfoss This splendid series of small waterfalls is located in Brúará river, in the area of Grímsnes in southwest Iceland. They are little-known and considered something of a hidden gem. Watching Brúarfoss falling in thousands of small runlets and the stark blue colour as it enters the deep gorge makes it a fascinating scene, and ideal as a photography location.  See also: Photography in Iceland 7. Svartifoss This fascinating waterfall is l...

22 Photos of the Aurora in Iceland

See a selection of wonderful photographs that capture the magic of the Northern Lights throughout Iceland.  Find Northern Lights Tours & Holidays here  Join this 4-Day Package to the Ice Cave | Jokulsarlon, Northern Lights and the South Coast  Experience 10 Day Winter in Depth Self Drive | Snaefellsnes, Northern Lights and the South Coast These beautiful pictures by renowned nature photographer Iurie Belegurschi are a wonderful example of how the Aurora Borealis is one of the most incredible things you'll ever see.  Also known as The Northern Lights, they appear above the planet's magnetic poles when electrically charged particles from the sun collide with the earth's atmosphere, creating dancing displays of green, red, purple and blue.  We hope we see you under the Aurora in Iceland next winter. Enjoy the pictures! Read this article to learn more about photography in Iceland These celestial phenomena make up the top of the bucket list for a countless amount of people from all over the world, wishing to behold their incredible beauty. When the earth is covered with a blanket of white snow, the green of the lights strikes out with an otherworldly appeal.  For more information about the Northern Lights, read Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in Iceland The lights are always there, but you can only see them when the sky is dark. Because of Iceland's midnight sun during the summer, the time for Northern Lights is usually restricted to the winter months of September until April. Read more about hunting down the auroras in this article about the Northern Lights in Iceland Besides darkness, for the lights to appear, optimal weather conditions are needed since the sky should be clear. From then on, it's all up to the sun's magnetic activity. You can check the forecast of the strength of the aurora's visibility at the aurora forecast. Here you can book a Northern Lights Tour Although the lights can be seen anywhere in the country, including from the capital...