Why Icelandic football has something to celebrate by Luke James

Posted on August 16, 2010


THE WILD celebrations of Stjarnan FC have gained them world-wide fame and brought some attention to the comparatively unknown Icelandic premier division.

Almost 8 million people have watched Youtube sensation Halldor Orri and his teem mates reel in Johann Laxdal, who’s surname means ‘salmon valley’, after scoring an extra time winner in a league match.

The famous fish celebration

Whilst Stjarnan has put the Icelandic league on the map, the nation’s under-21 national side have quietly been building something special and gave the country something to really celebrate on Wednesday as they inflicted a crushing 4-1 defeat on their German counterparts.

Young stars

The result means that Germany’s defence of the title they won in Sweden a year ago, being crowned champions after demolishing England 4-0 in the finals, is now over and Iceland are tantalisingly close to securing a play-off spot.

And if the young Icelanders qualify they will have done it in style – in addition to scoring six goals in their games against Germany, they piled the misery on Northern Ireland’s youngsters when they visited Coleraine last September by hitting them for six, adding another two goals and taking the points in the return match and dispatched group minnows San Marino with 14 goals over two games.

Iceland's young stars celebrate a goal against Germany on Wednesday

The only side they have failed to upset thus far is the Czech Republic, going down 2-0 in their opening qualifying match in Reykjavik last August, but have a chance to make amends next month in the return tie and their final qualifying group match.

Avid viewers of the English game might recognise Iceland’s young imports Liverpool’s Gudlaugur Palsson and Reading’s Gylfi Thor Sigurdsson who has netted three times in three games for Iceland, including the team’s third goal against Germany.

But the sides talisman is Johann Gudmundsson, the nineteen-year-old AZ Alkmaar forward has played all but 24 minutes in Iceland’s seven qualifying matches and chipped in with five goals.

Iceland fans will hope their under-21 side can prove an inspiration for their full team

Surprisingly many of the players who have put their country within touching distance of their greatest ever footballing feat were in the squad that finished fourth out of five in qualifying for the 2009 under-21 European championships.

Up hill battle

Everyone involved with Icelandic football will hope the achievements of the under-21 side fire up their ‘A’ side who were fifth seed in their group, the lowest in a group that has a distinctly Scandinavian flavour.

You can expect plenty of these under-21 starlets to graduate to the full side as they face an up hill battle against Portugal, Denmark, Norway and Cyprus if they are to emulate their age grade achievements.

Perhaps the national side better not start practicing their celebrations just yet though.