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Day 14: Bless íslenzku drottningarnar mínar (Goodbye my Icelandic queens)
It just wasn't meant to be...
All beautiful things must come to an end and in my case, the beautiful thing was believing Iceland would get out of Group D. A cruel 1-1 draw was meaningless as Belgium beat Italy and ensured that Iceland became the first team to exit the Euros at the group stage having gone unbeaten. Nothing if not consistent, Iceland spurned a range of good opportunities to draw all of their games 1-1. Iceland created an enormous expected goals of 6.53 during the group stage but only managed to score three times from it.
(The Analyst tweeted that at half time in the France game)
The most heartbreaking moment for Iceland came as Dagny Brynjarsdóttir took their last minute penalty. It was a fantastic penalty, smashed into the top corner, and there was a moment where she turned round to try and restart the game only to obviously be told that the Belgium Italy match had finished and Iceland were out. Iceland actually looked like they thought they were out at the end of the Italy game, but it felt like a double blow to have pushed France so close.
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This Iceland team seems to have captured the hearts of more people than just me. There is a lot to like about them. The famous Viking clap. The fact that there are five mothers in their team. Sveindis Jane Jonsdóttir’s long throws. Truly it is quite astonishing they are even competing at the tournament in the first place - Iceland has a population of only 366,000. For context, that is only slightly more people than the London borough I am from.
Excitingly though, this does not feel like a one-off. Their young players have looked very exciting, and I think there is more to come from this team. Obviously Jonsdóttir is the most eye-catching but 22 year old Alexandra Johannsdóttir. looked impressive as did 20 year old Bayern Munich player Karólína Lea Vilhjálmsdóttir. Goalkeeper Cecilía Rán Rúnarsdóttir ended up missing out on the tournament due to picking up a finger injury but has been touted to be one of the best of a new generation of goalkeepers coming through, and she is only 18 years old.
Iceland are currently second of their World Cup Qualifying group but have a game in hand over the Netherlands who are top. The two teams also still have to meet each other in September, and Iceland could be top before that match. They have never qualified for a World Cup before but they are guaranteed at least a play-off spot. Their experience from the Euros should make them feel like they have the ability to reach Australia and New Zealand, if they can just convert their chance.