This article is part of the Guardian’s Women’s Euro 2022 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 16 countries who have qualified. theguardian.com is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 6 July.
Iceland may have finished second in qualifying Group F but had won enough points to reach England 2022 as one of the best runners-up. “We have reached the finals three times before and this time we want to make our mark on the competition,” the captain, Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, told Morgunbladid after the decisive victory in Budapest back in December 2020.
“We are all very excited to play in England, on some of the country’s most famous stadiums and I think that this will be a fantastic tournament. She later criticised the organisers for some of their stadium choices, with Iceland due to play two games at the Manchester City Academy ground, which were quickly sold out. “I’m a little bit disappointed with some of the stadiums that we got,” she told the Their Pitch podcast. “It’s shocking. You’re playing in England, you have so many stadiums, and we have a training ground from City. It’s just embarrassing.”
The coach who achieved the qualification, Jón Thór Hauksson, will not be in England with the team, however, having had to resign after using inappropriate language towards some of the players under the influence of alcohol following that decisive win.
Thorsteinn Halldórsson will be the man in charge in England, having taken over in January 2021 and he is likely to get his team to line up in a 4-3-3 formation. They will go into the tournament confident having taken 18 points from the 18 available against Slovakia, Hungary and Latvia and drawing at home against Sweden before losing away 2-0.
Thorsteinn Halldórsson took over as Iceland’s coach after successfully coaching Breidablik’s women’s team for the previous five years. At Breidablik he won the Icelandic championship twice and the Cup twice. Before that he had coached girls’ and boys’ teams, and for a brief period, in the men’s Premier League with Thróttur in 2009. Before that, he was player with KR, FH and Thróttur 1986-1998 and represented Iceland at Under-19 and Under-21 level. “We will start our preparation on June 20th but we have not discussed our aims for the Euros. Until now, our focus has been on qualifying for the World Cup, so, as a team, we have not yet set our sights on what we want to achieve in England,” Halldórsson said when he announced his squad on 11 June.
Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir is Iceland’s best known and most experienced player having had successful spells with European super powers Wolfsburg and Lyon. She has won the league in Sweden, Germany and France and scored for Lyon against her former team Wolfsburg in the final of the Champions League in 2020. In May she won her second European Cup with the French team. She is the only Icelandic sportswoman to have been voted Sports Personality of the Year in Iceland (twice – in 2018 and 2020). In November she gave birth to a baby son but was back on the pitch in April.
This summer’s Euros could be the right time for Sveindís Jane Jónsdóttir to showcase her talents for a wider public. The speedy right winger from Keflavík has settled in remarkably well at Wolfsburg, winning a domestic double as well as playing in the Champions League in the past six months. She burst on to the international scene in September 2020, scoring twice in her first match for Iceland and has the quality to attack with speed and power, enabling her to breach opponents’ defences and break into the penalty area. In addition, her extra-long throw-ins are an added weapon for Iceland.
In June 2003 a 16-year-old striker ran straight into the penalty area in Laugardalsvöllur, coming on as a substitute in her first match for Iceland and scoring with her first touch in a 4-1 victory against Hungary. Her name was Margrét Lára Vidarsdóttir and in October 2019 she – after two serious injuries and giving birth to two children – scored with the last kick of her international career in a 6-0 victory in Latvia. She is a legend and a goal machine and her record of 79 goals in 124 matches for Iceland will probably stand for ever. She also scored 259 goals in 264 league matches in Iceland, Sweden and Germany and is without a doubt one of Iceland’s most popular footballers ever, male or female.
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Iceland are heading for their fourth finals in a row but in two of their three appearances they have returned home without a point. In 2009 in Finland they lost against France, Norway and Germany and in 2017 in the Netherlands they failed to get a point against France, Switzerland and Austria. That one hurt as they have travelled with great expectations. Their best performance came in Sweden in 2013 when they qualified for the last eight, having beaten the Netherlands thanks to a Dagný Brynjarsdóttir’s goal. However, Sweden proved to strong in the quarter-finals, winning 4-0.
Realistic aim this summer
Iceland probably need four or six points against Belgium and Italy to qualify for the last eight. It’s a difficult task but hardly mission impossible. On paper though third place in the group is probably the most likely outcome.
Vidir Sigurdsson writes for Morgunbladid. Follow him here on Twitter