Slightly above 330,000 people in the entire country, about a third of the population of Rhode Island. Around 10,000 people that could qualify for the team. Those numbers do not paint a pretty picture for a country to succeed on the global stage of world soccer. And to this point in their history, Iceland has been absent from any notable performances. Until 2016, Iceland has not participated in a single major tournament, including the World Cup and the European Championships. When the qualifying groups were decided for the 2016 European Championships, Iceland found themselves in a difficult, but manageable group. They were able to survive and found themselves in their first ever major tournament.
That excitement looked to come to a screeching halt when the groups were announced for the Euros. Iceland was placed in a hornet’s nest with Portugal, Hungary, and Austria, teams that can make your squad look foolish. In the opening game for Iceland, the players found themselves on the other side of the field looking at Christiano Ronaldo and the ever-dangerous Portugal squad. In a historic result, Iceland managed to draw even with Portugal, 1-1. In their second game, Iceland again drew even with the talented Hungary. To wrap up the group, Iceland needed to score a point to somehow have a historic result for the tiny country. Instead, Iceland went ahead and won the damn game, beating Austria 2-1.
Today, things should have ended. In the knockout round of 16, Iceland went head to head with Wayne Rooney and England. And when England scored a penalty in the first five minutes, the dream looked to be ending. But, Iceland’s story was not ready to end. In an almost instant response, Iceland poured a goal into the back of the net. And not to be outdone, they did it again, ten minutes later. 2-1. Amazing. Historic. And the tiny country hung on with all of their might to fend off wave after wave of England’s desperation. The Three Lions fell victim to a story that refuses to end.
Occasionally, the sports world gets lost in stories that can’t be explained. No matter what happens in the next game against France, Iceland has carved their name into history.
Thanks to Wikipedia for information on Iceland’s population.