No football fan could have missed the numerous facts flying around about Iceland over the past few days.
Here are just a few to have done the rounds…
With a population of just 330,000 it is the smallest nation ever to reach a major international football tournament.
Twenty-seven thousand fans have travelled to France, equating to eight per cent of the island’s total inhabitants.
Lars Lagerback’s 23-man squad represents 0.007 per cent of the population.
If Iceland was a US city, it would rank 58th in size…
The list goes on and on, as does their Euro 2016 adventure despite their late heartbreak against Hungary.
If Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Portugal perhaps relied on a little luck – and Cristiano Ronaldo having one of his more self-indulgent days – there was nothing fortuitous about the way they battled to another deserved point in Marseille.
They arguably deserved better.
Strong, powerful and resolute; Iceland were terrific. They may have ceded the majority of possession to Hungary but the chances fell the way of the men in blue.
Lars Lagerback’s men proved against Portugal they have little respect for reputation.
Ronaldo accused them of having a “small mentality” for celebrating a point against their more heralded opponents, but defender Kari Arnason responded with a shrug of the shoulders an
d a “tough s***” before labelling the Real Madrid superstar a “sore loser”.
That no-nonsense approach was in evidence once more against a Hungary side that stunned fancied Austria 2-0 in their opener.
Iceland had the best chances in a first half that took an age to come to life. Jon Dadi Bodvarsson nodded over, veteran Hungary goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly saved well to deny Johann Gudmundsson while some last-ditch defending kept out the lively Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.
Balazs Dzsudzsak and Laszlo Kleinheisler threatened sporadically at the other end but Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson did not make a save of note in the opening 45 minutes.
Iceland’s main threat had come from set-pieces and it was no surprise that it was a corner that resulted in their goal.
Kiraly looked every one of his 40 years as he flapped at a Gudmundsson corner and in the ensuing melee Tamas Kadar felled Aron Gunnarsson.
If the penalty award was perhaps a little harsh, Gylfi Sigurdsson showed little sympathy with a well-struck spot-kick.
The second half was all about Iceland’s organisation and desire. Wave after wave of Hungary attacks poured down yet each one was repelled by a tackle, a block or a save.
Arnason and central defensive partner Ragnar Sigurdsson were immense, putting their bodies on the line time and time again while shaggy-haired midfielder Birkir Bjarnason was an energetic presence that Hungary could not match.
Halldorsson saved two long-range free-kicks from Dzsudzsak but that was as close as Hungary came until the 88th minute when the unfortunate Birkir Saevarsson diverted Nemanja Nikolic’s low cross into his own net.
The goal was met with a series of firecrackers while flares rained down on the field. UEFA will no doubt have taken note, as they would the scenes beforehand when a large group of Hungary fans overpowered inadequate stewarding to move from one end of the ground to another.
Iceland still had the final chance, Gylfi Sigurdsson’s free-kick deflected into the path of veteran substitute Eidur Gudjohnsen, whose shot whistled wide.
Hungary celebrated wildly at the final whistle. With four points, they are all but through.
Iceland battle on. They deserved more in Marseille but they will take on Austria on matchday three knowing a win, and maybe even a draw, will be enough for another chapter to be written in their remarkable story.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!