[OP-ED]: The Ice Cinderella
After getting recognition in European soccer, Iceland will participate on its first World Cup, where it will try to extend its fairytale to the rest of the globe.
Once upon a time there was a small volcanic island, a nation since the beginnings of the XX Century with a population slightly over 300,000 people. Despite being close to the North Pole and far to the continent, it belonged to Europe. Therefore it played its soccer games within the European zone, where it made its debut in 1946. Luck had not been on its side. At home where the days in the summer last 24 hours and do not see the light in the winters, it was a hard squad to beat even for the best teams in the world. Playing abroad was always very, very tough…
Despite the many hurdles faced, the Vikings kept persevering. This way forward Eidor Gudjohnsen was the first player to leave the island to enjoy success at the English Premier League with Chelsea and at Spain’s La Liga with FC Barcelona. The key turning point for Iceland’s soccer was the hiring of a dentist, Heimir Hallgrimsson, as the federation’s technical director and second coach of the national team. His wand changed Icelandic soccer. In a humble way, the new sports executive chose to make a tandem with Swedish Lars Lagerback to head the Vikings. Things worked perfectly.
The good development task done in the country also helped and The Ice Cinderella started to collect great results, being very close to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Iceland saved the first stage and was eliminated in the wild card round by Croatia.
But the work was solid. Iceland not only qualified for the 2016 France Euro Cup, eliminating The Netherlands on its way, it also survived the tournament’s first round and shocked the whole continent by defeating historic England, 2-1, in the round of 16. Goals were scored by Kolbein Sigorsson, a member of Nantes, and Ragnar Sigurosson, who ironically plays for England’s Everton.
This way no one was surprised when Iceland dominated the qualifying phase of the World Cup. Earning their first ever bid to the planet’s main tournament, the Vikings led Europe’s Group I, which included amongst other Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey. Now the volcanic island sees with normalcy its players leaving to participate in the strongest continent’s leagues like the English, the French or the Italian. Would the fairytale continue next summer or would Iceland see its glass slipper break? The answer will be known in Russia 2018.