The Rise of The Icelandic Vikings


Iceland-a land of vikings,volcanoes,Bjork,Sigur Ros and the Midnight Sun.But this isn’t a story of vikings or volcanoes and much less with Bjork and Sigur Ros.This is a story of football and how Iceland,a small island in the North Atlantic became a sensation and the biggest surprise of the 2016 UEFA European Championships in France and one of the Cinderella stories of football in 2016.Iceland has rocked the football world during the Euros in France and was often compared to Leicester City who won the Premier League.But it wasn’t alyways like that,due to its geographical position which isolates them from the rest of Europe and very harsh climate which allows football only through the Spring and Summer,the Vikings had none of success besides that football in the country was introduced in the late 19th Century while in 1899 KR Reykjavik which is the country’s oldest football club was formed,with the KSI (Football Association of Iceland) formed in 1912,but it took 18 years to play its 1st international match against the Faroe Islands,while it wasn’t that until 1974 with the exeption of the 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden that they fully entered the qualification round,while for the European Championships with the exeption of 1964 that they fully entered the qualification round.Until recently Icelnad just served as stepping stone for bigger national teams on their way to qualify for a major international football tournament,but no more.So what exactly happened that Iceland has become a Cinderella story in football?The seeds of Iceland’s success were planted in the mid-1990s when the KSI began to discuss the way how to develop football in a harsh climate,so in 2000 the first series of domed football camps was built in the city Keflavik which was followed by even more domed football camps across the island which have been proven a major success since they allow football and related activities all year long.It is estimated that there are 15 domed football camps with 20 outdoor facilities and 100 mini-pitches across the island.Also the KSI has revamped the whole coaching infrastructure,it is estimated that there are 800 coaches with a UEFA licence with 185 which hold the most prestigious UEFA A licence,so young Icelandic footballers know with whom they work.With that the national team and football in Iceland have began to catch with the rest of the world and in just six years (2010-2016) in the FIFA World Rankings,Iceland has moved for 78 places,from 112th in 2010 to currently 34th.But most notably it wrote one of the most biggest Cinderella stories in football in 2016 and won the hearts of football supporters across the world.Iceland missed the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a loss in the playoffs against Croatia besides a 0-0 draw in Reykjavik,but in the return leg in Zagreb,Dario Srna and Mario Mandzukic scored the goals which sent Croatia to the World Cup and Iceland stayed at home,but no one ever predicted that the Vikings would qualify for the Euros in France with a group which consisted of Czech Republic,Turkey,the Netherlands,Latvia and Kazakhstan.Iceland opened its qualifiers with two 3-0 victories against Turkey and Latvia with Swansea City midfielder Glyfi Sigurdsson scoring in both matches,but the first one of many shocks which the Vikings will give to the football world came in the match against the Netherlands in Reykjavik where they won 2-o with Sigurdsson scoring both goals and besides they lost the matchagainst the Czech Republic in Prague 2-1 they would not lost a match until the final matchday against Turkey where they lost 1-0 but in the meanwhile once again they beat the Netherlands in Amsterdam by a single goal scored by Sigurdsson and one again they shocked the Dutch who in Brazil finished in 3rd place.With 20 points and a 2nd place in their qualifying group,Lars Lagerback’s made history and Iceland qualified for its first major international football tournament in its history.But they weren’t stopping there and in France,Iceland wrote history.With two 1-1 draws against Portugal and Hungary in their group,it came to the final group match against Austria at Saint-Denis where in the last seconds of the match Arnor Ingvi Traustason scored the historic goal which put them in the 2nd round of the tournament against England.The Vikings shocked the world and embarrassed England with a 2-1 victory in Nice which was Roy Hodgson’s final match as the manager of England and the whole world saw the Icelandic fairytale.Ultimately Iceland fell short against the hosts of the tournament which won the quarterfinal match at Saint-Denis 5-2 which put the Icelandic fairytale to an end,but the Vikings won the hearts and minds of the footall world as the ultimate underdogs.Besides that right after the Euros,Lars Lagerbeck quit as the coach of the Icelandic national team,they prepare another historical moment to achieve,to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia where they can continue to write the fairytale story which captured the hearts of football supporters across the world.


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