Pingdom Check
11/20/2017 | 12:00 AM

To Russia with Love

We are all on the same team. Icelandair is proud to support Iceland’s sporting teams, including its men’s and women’s football (soccer) teams, and its handball and basketball squads.

The sporting world´s newest crush is the Iceland men’s football team, after its amazing run at Euro 2016 in France. The supporters’ Viking thunder-clap and our favorite commentator Gummi Ben received plenty of media attention, but it was the team’s heart and dedication that won it thousands of new fans around the world.

After the team´s brilliant result at Euro 2016 (reaching the quarterfinals, and eliminating England in its wake), the fairytale continues. In 2018, Iceland will play at the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Iceland is the smallest nation to ever qualify for the tournament.

Icelandair has had a long and successful partnership with the Football Association of Iceland (KSÍ). We are the main sponsor of the national team and look forward to flying Our Boys to Russia 2018. Áfram Ísland! (Go Iceland!)

Interesting Icelandic Football Facts

  • As a nation of just 350,000, Iceland is the smallest nation ever to qualify for the European Championship finals. Before Iceland, the smallest nation to qualify was Slovenia, with a population just under 2 million
  • In 2017, Iceland became the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup. Before Iceland, that honor was held by Trinidad and Tobago, which qualified for the 2006 World Cup with a population of 1.3 million
  • The nickname for the men's national team in Iceland, Strákarnir okkar, means Our Boys. Similarly, the women's team is referred to as Stelpurnar okkar, or Our Girls
  • A rough estimate indicated that about 8% of the Icelandic population accompanied the team to France for Euro 2016
  • In 2017, approximately 23,000 individuals are registered football practitioners in Iceland, according to statistics from the Football Association of Iceland. About one third of these players are female
  • In late 2017, the Iceland men's team is ranked 21 in FIFA's world ranking. In October 2012, Iceland ranked 131st, the lowest it has ever been
  • The Iceland Euro qualifying team consisted of players that have played together since the early stages and youth teams. The core of the squad has also remained together on a national level since the U17
  • Heimir Hallgrímsson, the team's coach, works part time as a dentist in his home town of Vestmannaeyjar


Early Stars of Icelandic Football

Although football has remained a popular sport in Iceland since its heyday in the 1890s, the Icelandic national football team has not been very successful until recently. Before 2000, Iceland had produced only a few decent players that would go on and make their mark as professional footballers.

Albert Guðmundsson was the first Icelandic player to play at a professional level. In 1944 he moved to Glasgow, Scotland, where he played for Rangers in wartime football. After a brief spell in Glasgow he moved to London, where he played for Arsenal, still at an amateur level. In 1947, Guðmundsson became the first Icelander to play professional football, when he signed with Nancy in France and later AC Milan in Italy.

Ásgeir 'Sigi' Sigurvinsson is widely regarded as one of the greatest players Iceland has ever produced. He had a successful career in Germany, where, in 1984, he captained Stuttgart towards winning the Bundesliga for the first time in 32 years, earning himself a Player of the Year nomination.

Other notable players from the latter half of the 20th century include Pétur Pétursson, Guðni Bergsson, Atli Eðvaldsson and Arnór Guðjohnsen - Eiður Smári Guðjohnsen's father.

A New Beginning

In the early 2000s, the Icelandic Football Association (KSÍ) realised it needed to revise its approach from the bottom up. In 2002 it began strategic reformulation of the coaching education it provided, eventually receiving A and B licences from UEFA.

Another important step was the rise of indoor training halls. With Iceland going through an economic boom, significant amounts of funds went into building quality training grounds, both indoors and outdoors, that were available all year round. The youth teams now had a chance to practice their technique despite harsh winter weather or wet summers.

The Football Association’s plans began to bear results. In 2011, the men's U21 team reached the final stages of Euro 2011 in Denmark. The core of that team would later move up into the first team. This is the team that represented Iceland at Euro 2016.

Rise of the Indoor Kids

Lagerbäck and Hallgrímsson's appointment in 2011 marked the moment when things began to turn. Soon after his arrival, Lagerbäck stated his ambition to take the Iceland team to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Although the general population cheered, it was considered a bold statement. And yet, Iceland finished second within their qualifying group, sending them into the playoffs where they were ultimately defeated by Croatia.

We Are All on the Same Team

In 1946, Icelandair teamed up with the national team by flying the squad to Scotland, where they played a series of games considered their first international away games. Ever since, Icelandair has accompanied the national team on their exciting journey.

Highlights of Icelandic Football History

Despite the lack of tradition, people in Iceland are proud of the most successful moments in Icelandic football history. These are the highlights:

  • On 5 June 1975, Iceland beat East Germany 2-1 at home
  • On 5 September 1998, Iceland tied 1-1 against France at home in the Euro 2000 qualifying rounds
  • On 18 August 2004, Iceland beat Italy 2-0 in a friendly at home
  • On 13 October 2014, Iceland beat the Netherlands 2-0 at home in the Euro 2016 qualifying rounds
  • On 3 September 2015, Iceland beat the Netherlands again in the Euro 2016 qualifying rounds, this time 1-0 and away
  • On 6 September 2015, Iceland tied Kazakhstan 0-0 at home. The game was uneventful, but will always be part of Icelandic football history: the results were good enough for Iceland to qualify for Euro 2016
  • On 27 June 2016, Iceland beat England 2-1 at the Stade de Nice to progress to the quarterfinals in Euro 2016
  • On 9 October 2017, Iceland beat Kosovo 2-0 at home to qualify for the World Cup in 2018