Iceland – a country when mentioned to English fans, sends shivers down their spines. For any of those who need reminding, four years ago, Iceland shocked the footballing world and knocked England out of the Euros, coming from behind to win 2-1. England will have the chance of redemption in the next UEFA Nations League when the two nations will meet for the first time since that famous day in France.
This was not a one-off for Iceland, however, who saw their style of play admired by football fans all over the world – predominately for their passionate fans and their famous “thunderclap” chant. Fast forward two years from that day in France and Iceland were at their second major tournament in as many years, representing their small nation on the biggest stage in football. It was their first ever appearance at the World Cup and despite drawing against Argentina in their opening match, they went on to lose to Nigeria and Croatia, exiting the tournament in the group stage. But this was no embarrassing defeat for Iceland, a nation who were far from disgraced – holding Argentina to a draw – with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and of course, Lionel Messi, is no easy task.
An early goal for Sergio Aguero from the spot must have seen plenty of punters who had backed Argentina pretty confident about their selection but Alfred Finnbogason’s header just four minutes later soon wiped that smile from their faces.
As a result of their recent performances on the big stage, Iceland have well and truly put themselves on the football world map. They have to be taken very seriously by the best in Europe, else they could also fall short, similar to England back in 2016.
Iceland are seeking to be in their third major tournament but before they achieve this, they will have to overcome Romania in a qualification match. They finished third in their qualification group behind France and Turkey, but have been rewarded with a play-off match for finishing as the best third place team within their group. Iceland finished on 19 points, winning six out of their ten games, including a 0-0 draw away to Turkey.
The odds on UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers indicate Iceland are favorites to be victorious over Romania. It will be no easy match for Iceland, however. Despite Romania having to face Spain, Sweden and Norway, they came out of their group with four wins and two draws.
They’ll fancy their chances against Iceland after facing much stronger opposition in their group. Their away record in recent times hasn’t been strong, and this is where Iceland can take advantage in the first leg. If Iceland come away victorious then they will have to face the winner of Bulgaria and Hungary for that precious ticket to the Euros.
One thing for sure is Iceland will be a very welcome guest at the next Euros. Their passion from their tight-knit squad and fans caught the hearts at the last Euros and World Cup and they would be a great addition to the tournament.
Opponents won’t want to play against them, especially England, but Iceland are very much an underdog most fans will love to watch.