Football in Iceland
Iceland, despite being a small country, is well familiarized with football – fans actively support their favorite and numerous teams. Although a level of a domestic league is not so high when compared to the other national leagues, yet the Iceland national team players are getting better and better when it comes to the international games.
Back in 2013 officials have decided to increase the number of leagues in Iceland. So far there had been four levels of competition, but the fifth has been added to enable the weakest and the newly created teams to be involved in the game. Currently, there are 79 teams competing on these five levels of the national league. The first and the highest league (Icelandic Premier League, IPL) consists of 12 teams which play for a prestigious title of the Iceland’s champion. They stay against each other twice in a season, once being a host, once a guest player.
At the end of the season, the two weakest ones (being at the bottom of the table) fall to the second league (Icelandic First Division). Adequately, the two best ones from the second league promote to the higher level of competition. Furthermore, the Iceland’s champion gets an opportunity to enter the Champions League tournament starting from the second stage of qualifications. There is also a reward for the second, third and fourth team in the IPL– they have right to compete in the European League (starting from the first round of qualification). The current champion title belongs to FH Hafnarfjörður, whereas the most titled team is KR Reykjavik – players from this capital city’s squad have won already 26 times in the history.
The Icelandic First Division (Iceland 1 Deild) comprises, as the higher one, of 12 teams. The rules of the game are also the same – the two best and the two worst promote and fall into adequate leagues. The third league (Icelandic Second Division) is also about 12 teams, but the fourth one (Icelandic Third Division) is only with 10. The last, fifth level (Icelandic Fourth Division) is a bit more complex; divided into four groups (three of them are of eight teams, and one of nine ones), where only two best out of all get to play in the higher league next season. Here is how it goes: winners of these four groups meet on a playoff stage, making it into semifinals; their winners go straight to the Icelandic Third Division.
Apart from the Iceland’s league, the teams compete also on the levels of trophy games. The Iceland’s Cup involves all the teams from the above-mentioned leagues. Moreover, there is also the Iceland’s League Cup which is limited only to the 24 best teams from a previous season. At the beginning of each season, a winner of the Iceland’s League Cup plays with an Iceland’s champion for an Iceland’s Super Cup. The Iceland’s Cup has started in 1960; its winner goes further to the European League games. The current title’s defender is Valur Reykjavik, but the most successful team within the Cup games is KR Reykjavik (14 times winner).
The Iceland’s League Cup, which number of teams has increased from 16 to 24 in 2008, is considered the least prestigious one. The total number of 24 is made out of all 12 teams from the IPL, 10 best from the Icelandic First Division as well as two best teams from Icelandic Second Division. The current title holder is KR Reykjavik with seven titles on the account. When it comes to the Super Cup, the title holder is Valur Reykjavik which has won this tournament 10 times so far.
Iceland’s Football Association
The Federation has been founded in 1921, but the first match was played nine years later. In 1947 the Football Association of Iceland was founded and from that time on it has been a member of the FIFA. Seven years later, in 1954, it got its membership within the UEFA. The Association is the only legally functioning entity of its kind in Iceland; it embraces men’s as well as women’s football. The current chairman of the Association is Geir Porsteinsson.
The most prominent teams in the Iceland’s football
The Icelandic football is composed of many interesting teams which were more or less successful on the international level. However, there are few worth mentioning, considered the best in the country, and sometimes even trouble making for other teams in the European tournaments.
One of the most important and most renown Icelandic football team is FH Hafnarfjörður – the current Iceland’s champion, being involved in football since 2000. FH, despite its short time of presence, has managed to win already eight champion’s titles. Additionally, it has won twice the national Cup games, six times the Iceland’s League Cup and the Super Cup. The team was also participating in the Champions and European League, without successes though. One of the most prominent players of the FH is Kassim Doumbia; it is coached by Heimir Guðjónsson.
The second on a list of importance is KR Reykjavik. It is the oldest and the most titled team in the Icelandic football. The KR has got 26 titles of the League (winning the first one back in 1912, when the first season of the Iceland’s League started). Moreover, the team has also got the most number of titles in the Iceland’s Cup (14). It is also the first Iceland’s representative on the European level (without successes though). KR Reykjavik was seven times’ winner of the Iceland’s League Cup and five times’ winner of the Super Cup. One of the brightest shining stars in the team is Robert Sandnes.
The next team which is worth considering is Stjarnan Garðabær; playing in the League since 1997. Stjarnan so far has got only one champion title, but it is still something as for a relatively young team. The title was achieved in 2014 and gave the players an opportunity to try their chances in the European tournaments (eventually without any success). Stjarnan has also won once the Iceland’s Super Cup. One of its most famous representatives is Ólafur Karl Finsen. The team is trained by Rúnar Páll Sigmundsson.
When talking about Icelandic teams it is hard to skip Valur Reykjavik. Valur has been founded back in 1911 and since then the club managed to win 20 times the Iceland’s League which is a really stunning performance. Moreover, Valur was 11 times the winner of the Iceland’s Cup, twice it triumphed in the Cup of the Iceland’s League, and 10 times in the games of Super Cup of Iceland. The Valur’s players were also participating multiple times in the European tournaments, but similarly to all the other Icelandic football clubs, without any successes. Undoubtedly, one of the biggest stars in the team is a Danish player, Rasmus Christiansen. Valur is coached by their native, Ólafur Jóhannesson.
There is yet another club, one of the oldest ones, founded in 1908 – Fram Reykjavik. How about its titles? Well, there are 18 ones in total, but Fram used to be truly good years back, now it is not so anymore. Fram was last time the winner of the Iceland’s League in 1990, so it is kind of a few years ago. Apart from these 18 titles, it won eight times the Iceland’s Cup, and six times the Super Cup. It is Dino Gavric who is considered Fram’s best player.
The last but not least club to point here out is IA Akranes; founded in 1946, with 18 titles of the Iceland’s League, nine of the Iceland’s Cup, three of the Iceland’s League Cup, and one in the Super Cup. Unsurprisingly, when IA was competing on the European level, it did not manage to be noticed. One of its best players is Rashid Yussuff. The team is under the coaching of Gunnlaugur Jónsson.
The national team of Iceland
The national team of Iceland for a long time was not a team to be afraid of on the international level. However, this situation has recently and rapidly changed and now Iceland is being considered not so easy rival. The national stadium of Iceland, “Laugardalsvöllur”, is placed obviously in Reykjavik. Its capacity equals 15 000 people – you might think that it is not much, but it actually is when we are in Iceland. So whenever there is a match of the Iceland’s team, the stadium is full of fans and supporters what provides everyone with an exceptional atmosphere.
The very first match of the Iceland’s national team took place in 1930. It was against the Faroe Islands and Iceland won 1:0. Since 1974 Iceland has been playing in the qualification rounds of the EURO and World Cup, with no bigger achievements though. In 1994 it got positioned at the 37th place in the FIFA’s ranking, which was seen as a big accomplishment.
The first serious and meaningful results have started to come during the EURO 2004 qualifications. Although Iceland did not manage to be qualified to the finals of the games, it got only one point less than Scotland (Iceland turned out to be better than Lithuania for example). Unfortunately, after 2004 things were falling apart for the Iceland’s national team – at some point it was at the 117th place in the FIFA’s ranking which caused many changes within the Football Association of Iceland.
Almost ten years later, during qualifications for the World Cup of 2014, Iceland was again in a good shape, taking the second position in its group, being just one place after Switzerland (Iceland was before such teams as Norway, Slovenia, and Albania). Because of the second position, Iceland was still in the game for the World Cup, but eventually, it failed against Croatia.
This failure was not the end of the story – good times for Iceland tend to continue. In the qualification rounds to the EURO 2016, Iceland finally succeeded, being surprisingly better than for example Netherlands (viewed as one of the favorites to win the EURO…).
The EURO 2016 itself turned out to be a tough game for Iceland – but the team was ambitiously fighting for every single point in every single match, trying to give its best. Iceland played with Portugal, Hungary, and Austria in the preliminary round; the first two matches ended up with dead-heats, thus the one with Austria was a decisive one in terms of continuing the game. Iceland managed to win in the last minutes 2:1, going further to the round of 16 where England was waiting. No one expected Iceland to win this match – but this is a sport and the favorite, England, was kicked out by stunning Icelandic players (2:1). In the quarterfinals Iceland met the hosts of the EURO), France. Eventually, the Icelandic dream was over, its players were not able to win against French players, losing 2:5. However, this loss was not seen as a failure, but rather a hope for the upcoming future successes. The Iceland’s national team appeared to be the most successful under the coaching of Lars Lagerbäck. The current coach is Heimir Hallgrímsson.
As for now, Iceland is part of the qualification rounds for the World Cup 2018, playing in a group against Croatia, Finland, Turkey, Ukraine, and Kosovo. After six matches Iceland keeps a fantastic second place in the group, which is a great departure point for their further games. The team has collected 13 points so far (the same amount as a leader of the group, Croatia).
When it comes to individual players and their performances in the national team, Rúnar Kristinsson is the one who played most times – 106, whereas Eiður Guðjohnsen scored most number of goals – 87. Eiður’s position in here should not be a surprise; he is a great player, being a member of clubs such as FC Barcelona, Chelsea Londyn, etc. Nowadays he plays for Molde FK. According to fans and specialists, he is the best football player in the Iceland’s history.
Iceland has not only a senior national team but also a U-21 team. However, young Icelanders have not achieved anything yet, so it is hard to compare them with the senior representatives. There is also a women’s national team of Iceland. In the women’s FIFA ranking it is placed at the relatively high, 19th position. The Icelanders are coached by Sigurður Ragnar Eyjólfsson. The biggest success of this team was a qualification for the EURO 2009; unfortunately, the EURO itself did not turn out to be fruitful for the players. When it comes to numbers, a woman with most number of plays in the national team is Katrín Jónsdóttir, with 92 matches; most number of goals belongs to Lára Viðarsdóttir – 51.
The national team of Iceland had and still has many football stars; players who are renown all over the world. Apart from already mentioned Eiður Guðjohnsen, there is also Ragnar Sigurðsson (defender position). Currently, Ragnar is an important part of Fulham team in England. As a national team player, he played in 62 matches, scoring two goals (which is a very good result, taking into account that Ragnar is a defender).
Another, known by English football fans player is Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson, a member of Swansea club. He plays as a midfielder. Gylfi has 50 matches and 15 goals on his national account. Furthermore, we have to mention Aron Einar Gunnarsson, a player of Cardiff. Aron, a defensive midfielder, finished 43 matches as an Iceland’s national team member, without any goal yet (scoring is not his main priority in the field though).
The last person to be pointed out is Alfreð Finnbogason, a striker. A player of Augsburg, represented 38 times his national team, managing to score nine goals. Alfreð was also part of the Iceland’s team during the EURO 2016 games, like the above-listed players.