What Iceland taught the world

There are so many lessons to be learnt from Iceland, which had defied all odds to make it to the last eight of Europe’s premier international competition. The tiny nation showed us that if everyone works collectively towards a common goal, anything is possible.

Iceland team players and officials acknowledge the cheers of the crowd at the Stade de France, Saint-Denis, near Paris, France, after their EURO 2016 quartefinal match against the host. Iceland lost 5-2 but won the hearts of the football fans.   -  REUTERS

The players of the French team are cock-a-hoop following their thumping 5-1 victory against Iceland in the quarterfinals of the EURO 2016.   -  REUTERS

Iceland’s fairytale run came to an end against France, but the performance of the smallest nation ever to take part in a European Championship will not be forgotten in a hurry.

Host France showed England how it’s done by blowing away a shell-shocked Iceland 5-2, with four of the goals coming in the first half.

 

The movement from the French was slick, and it did not give Iceland any time on the ball. None of the French players, with the exception of the ever-brilliant Dimitri Payet, kept the ball for very long, as they moved about with nice one-touch passing.

N’Golo Kante’s absence in the midfield was not felt, as Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi ran riot. Antoine Griezmann played as a support striker to Olivier Giroud and they made Iceland pay for holding an extremely high defensive line.

Wales and Iceland are the top contenders for surprise package of the tournament, but I would still pick the latter despite the fact that Chris Coleman’s side still has a semifinal to look forward to.

Although both these teams have showed us that teamwork can outshine individual brilliance, Wales still possesses some star power with the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. Iceland has no household names in its ranks and this makes its achievement even more remarkable.

 

There are so many lessons to be learnt from this tiny nation, which had defied all odds to make it to the last eight of Europe’s premier international competition. It showed us that if everyone works collectively towards a common goal and is on the same page together, anything is possible.

The coach’s instructions were clear and the players followed them very well. A team that is so well drilled and organised is very difficult to beat, and this is something that all the ‘smaller’ teams can learn from.

I sincerely hope that this was not a one-off performance from Iceland and that it can build on this by qualifying for the FIFA World Cup 2018. For that though, it will need to work on making its national league stronger, as most of the players in the squad were playing in leagues abroad. If that happens, the team will be in really good shape in the coming years.

The knockout stage of EURO 2016 has been a mixed bag of sorts, with performances ranging from the inspired to the insipid. Portugal has been quite lucky in getting to the semifinals without winning a single game in 90 minutes yet. It takes on a Welsh side riding a wave of confidence now, although it will miss the services of Aaron Ramsey.

The Arsenal midfielder has been rampant throughout the tournament and will leave a huge void against the Portuguese. He tormented Belgium in the quarterfinals, setting up two goals including Hal Robson-Kanu’s which made it 2-1.

Germany and France will be a mouth-watering match. Die Mannschaft has lost some key players to injuries but it is still a very formidable outfit. France has been steadily improving as the tournament has progressed but will face its sternest test yet.