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How Have Iceland Reached Europe’s Pinnacle, And Can they Stay There?

July 13, 2016

- Grant Whittington

You would think, given their footballing history and relatively small population, that Iceland would be happy enough to receive an invite to Europe’s top table. Not only have they pulled up a chair alongside Europe’s elite, however, but they have also taken centre stage and stolen food from the mouths of more established rivals.

The end result of this is that Iceland have reached the quarter-finals, following an historic 2-1 win over England in the second round. This itself came on the back of an impressive group stage campaign, which saw Iceland avoid defeat while also displaying the type of aggression and organisation that so many sides have lacked to date.

Iceland’s Route To The Quarter-Final Stage Of Euro 2016

Iceland’s journey began in a tough qualification group, which included Turkey, the Czech Republic and Holland (who achieved third-place at the World Cup in 2014). Few gave them a chance of progressing, but two superb victories against a misfiring Dutch outfit set them on a course that few could have envisaged. Ultimately, Iceland secured an automatic qualification slot behind the Czech Republic, booking an historic place in a major tournament for the very first time in their history.

If their qualification came as a surprise, however, even fewer pundits expected them to progress beyond the group stages of Euro 2016. After all, Iceland are the smallest nation ever to qualify for a championship final, while their lack of a domestic league seemed to underline the notion that they were punching far in excess of the weight. Despite this, they opened up with a superb 1-1 with tournament winners Portugal, before drawing with Hungary and securing their passage with a superb 2-1 win against Austria.

How Iceland Went So Far?

Undefeated and undeterred, Iceland  built-up incredible momentum and this came to a head during their 2-1 knockout win over England. They left the Three Lions embarrassed and were all ready to spoilt the party for the hosts too.

However, that of course wasn’t meant to be. The French did what England couldn’t – they attacked Iceland. The put them on the back foot instantly and kept it that way. France went on to the final, but you can’t take anything away from the belief, spirit and organisation that characterised their success throughout the tournament.

Whether they can do this again we’ll have to wait and see, but there will be plenty of sides wary of the Icelandic team now, and especially that handclap! Next stop, the World Cup…

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