For a county with a population of just 330,000 people, Iceland’s performance in reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 before being beaten 5-2 by France was absolutely remarkable.
Masterminding that were the team’s joint managers Heimer Hallgrimsson and Lars Lagerback, who named the same starting XI in all five of Iceland’s games at the finals.
Of those XI players, seven were named among the starting XI for each of Iceland’s 10 qualification campaign games.
Those players were Kari Arnason, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Birkir Bjarnason, Gyfli Sigurdsson, Aron Gunnarsson, Johann Gudmundsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, whilst Jon Dadi Bodvarsson who has been an ever present in France, started eight of Iceland’s 10 qualifiers and appeared as a substitute in the other two.
The other three members of Iceland’s unchanged Euro 2016 starting XI, also played prominent roles in the team’s qualification campaign.
Goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson, who only became a professional in 2014 after working as a film director, only missed the last qualifier against Turkey.
Despite missing Iceland’s first two qualification games, right back Birkir Saevarsson was used as a substitute in the next two, before starting the remaining six games, as did Johann Gudmundsson, although the Charlton Athletic right sided midfielder did not feature in any of the team’s opening three qualifiers making a substitute appearance in the fourth.
Continuity harvests excellent performance for Iceland
The benefits of such continuity in selection were evident in each of Iceland’s performances at the finals. Those, with the exception of their first half display against France, were characterised by a cohesive, disciplined, organised and well – drilled team effort.
So as to further illustrate the continuity in joint managers Hallgrimsson & Lagerback’s selection, a full list of the Iceland players to appear during the country’s superb 15 game Euro 2016 adventure is provided below.
Player appearances during Iceland’s remarkable 15 game Euro 2016 journey:
Hannes Halldorsson – Only missed last qualifier against Turkey
Elmar Bjarnson -Two starts during qualification, three substitute appearances at finals
Kari Arnason – Ever present
Ragnar Sigurdsson – Ever present
Ari Skulason – Ever present
Birkir Bjarnson – Ever present
Aron Gunnarsson – Ever present
Gylfi Sigurdsson – Ever present
Emil Halfredsson – Five starts and one substitute appearance during qualification, three substitute appearances at finals
Jon Dadi Bodvarsson – Started every game with exception 5th and 6th qualifiers against Czech Republic and Kazzachstan when used as a substitute
Kolbeinn Sigthorsson – Ever present
Birkir Saevarsson – Missed first two qualifiers, used as a substitute in the 3rd & 4th against Latvia & Holland, before starting every other
Rurik Gislason – Made five substitute appearance during qualification
Vidar Orn Kjartansson – Made five substitute appearance during qualification
Alfred Finnbogason – Made one start and four substitute appearances during qualification, three substitutes appearances at finals
Johann Gudmundsson – Missed first three qualifiers, used as a substitute in the 4th against Holland, before starting every other game
Eidur Gudjohnsen – Made one start and two substitute appearances during qualification, two substitute appearances at finals
Olafur Skulason – Made three substitute appearances during qualification
Solvi Otteson – Made one substitute appearance during qualification
Ogmundur Kristinsson – Started last qualifier against Turkey in place of Halldorsson
Sverrir Ingason – Made two substitute appearances at finals
Arnor Traustason – Made two substitute appearances at finals, scoring the winning goal in the first against Austria
Of Iceland’s 23-man Euro 2016 squad, only the quintet of Ingvar Jonsson, Haukar Heider Hauksson, Hjortur Hermannsson, Hordur Magnusson and Runar Mar Sigurjonsson, did not make an appearance during the team’s journey to their 5-2 quarter final defeat to France.
Despite being unable to upset the hosts, Halgrimmsson and Lagerback’s jointly managed team warmed to the challenge of Euro 2016 by producing a series of wonderful performances, of which both they and their band of loyal supporters can be immensely proud.