ICELAND QUALIFYING FOR EURO 2017

Iceland’s national women’s soccer team has been a tour de force for the past few years, and have risen rapidly in the FIFA rankings. The women have already secured their place at Euro 2017 in the Netherlands next summer — their third consecutive time achieving that feat — despite having lost to Scotland in the final game of the qualifying rounds. In the Netherlands, they will face France, Austria, and Switzerland in group C.

Interesting Facts about Iceland’s National Women’s Soccer Team

  • The Icelandic Women’s league originally spun off from women handball players trying out new methods of warming up for handball practices in the 1960s.
  • The Icelandic national women’s football team’s first match was against Scotland on September 20 1981. Exactly 35 years later, they faced Scotland again in the final match of the qualifying stages for Euro 2017 in the Netherlands.
  • Ásta B. Gunnlaugsdóttir was a key player during the formative years of the national team. She was a part of the squad that played the first match against Scotland, and then went on to play 22 out of Iceland’s 25 games until she retired in 1994. She missed 3 matches in 1987 as she gave birth to a daughter, Greta Mjöll Samúelsdóttir. Greta Mjöll would later go on to cap 28 international matches for Iceland and score 3 international goals.
  • Other notable Icelandic former women soccer players include Ásthildur Helgadóttir, who remained one of the top players in the Swedish league for several years. Her sister is Þóra Björg Helgadóttir, also one of Iceland’s most notable players and most seasoned goalkeeper.
  • Margrét Lára Viðarsdóttir is the all-time top scorer of the Icelandic national women’s soccer team with 77 international goals. She made her debut in 2003, at the age of 17, and has been a regular in the national team ever since.

ICELAND’S JOURNEY TO EURO 2017

Women On the Field

Although soccer arrived in Iceland in the late 19th century, it wasn’t until the 1970s that a women’s tournament, a precursor to the league, was officially established. This was not due to lack of interest; in 1914 a group of women founded the soccer club Hvöt in Ísafjörður, as a protest against the local football club’s ban against women practicing soccer, and a year later, in 1915, the Reykjavík club Víkingur established its own women’s team. These efforts, however, were met with criticism among their male counterparts and discontinued soon after.

In the 1960s, women handball players began to experiment with soccer as a warm-up method before practices, and a way to keep fit off-season. With more women turning to the sport, interest took off again, and in 1970 the first official women’s soccer match, between Keflavík’s and Reykjavík’s All-Star teams, was played at Laugardalsvöllur, as a warm-up to a men’s international match.

Two years later, the first women’s soccer tournament in Iceland took place. Two groups of four teams participated, and Hafnarfjörður’s FH wound up as victors. In the subsequent years, more clubs would introduce female squads within their ranks. Yet, even though these teams were often very successful, several clubs decided to drop the program without specifying a reason behind it - so much that in 1980, only three clubs were enlisted into the tournament.

Iceland’s Women's Team Soccer Established... and Discontinued

In 1981, after some lobbying by the chairman of the Icelandic Soccer Association at the time, the decision was made to form a women’s national team. They played Scotland abroad that same year, but lost the game by a single goal, 2-3.

The team entered Euro qualifying in 1982, but failed to qualify for the final stages. This led to a decision not to enter the team in the subsequent year, a decision that was met with harsh criticism and a petition, signed by almost 3000 women. The withdrawal from competition meant that they wouldn’t be able to participate again until 1987. Before that happened, however, the squad was disbanded and the women’s national soccer team discontinued, in 1987.

Returning in 1993, the team kept improving gradually, learning from previous experiences, and a new generation of women soccer players. Already in 1994, it made the second leg of the qualifying stages for Euro ‘95 in Germany, where they were defeated by England in the play-offs.

The Rise of Women Professional Players

In 2001, two women soccer players were signed on as professional soccer players in the United States, and the same year local club KR made it into UEFA’s Women’s Championship League, as the first Icelandic contender.

The year 2008 marks a new era for the Icelandic national women’s soccer team. 10 players from the national squad turned professional that year. The team qualified for Euro 2009 in Finland, as the first Icelandic national soccer team to qualify for the final stages of any major tournament.

A couple of years later, the team qualified again, this time for Euro 2013 in Sweden, and made it all the way into the quarterfinals, where they were defeated by the hosts. Icelandair has a long standing tradition of supporting the Icelandic Soccer Association and we are proud to lend the national women’s soccer team our support on their journey.

Highlights of Icelandic Women’s Soccer

  • In 2008, the women’s squad qualified for the final stages of a major tournament, Euro 2009 in Finland. This was a first time achievement for Icelandic soccer at a national level.
  • In 2013, having repeated their feat by qualifying for Euro 2013 in Sweden, the Icelandic women’s team managed to secure the first points obtained in major tournament finals, in a draw against Norway.

The Icelandic Women’s Euro Squad

No Name Year of Birth International Duty Matches Goals Club
1 Guðbjörg Gunnarsdóttir 1985 2004-2016 45 Djurgårdens IF
12 Sandra Sigurðardóttir 1986 2005-2016 14 Valur
13 Sonný Lára Þráinsdóttir 1986 2016 2 Breiðablik
2 Sif Atladóttir 1985 2007-2016 56 1 Kristianstad
4 Glódís Perla Viggósdóttir 1995 2012-2016 46 2 Eskilstuna United DFF
14 Málfríður Erna Sigurðardóttir 1984 2003-2016 28 Breiðablik
11 Hallbera Guðný Gísladóttir 1986 2008-2016 76 3 Breiðablik
17 Elísa Viðarsdóttir 1991 2012-2016 31 Valur
19 Anna Björk Kristjánsdóttir 1989 2013-2016 27 KIF Örebro
10 Dagný Brynjarsdóttir 1991 2010-2016 69 19 Portland Thoms
21 Dóra María Lárusdóttir 1985 2005-2016 113 18 Valur
22 Elín Metta Jensen 1995 2012-2016 21 4 Valur
23 Fanndís Friðriksdóttir 1990 2009-2016 76 10 Breiðablik
5 Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdóttir 1988 2011-2016 34 4 Stabæk Football Kvinner
15 Sandra María Jessen 1995 2012-2016 15 6 Þór/KA
7 Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir 1990 2007-2016 98 18 FC Rosengård
20 Berglind Björg Þorvaldsdóttir 1992 2010-2016 19 Fylkir
6 Hólmfríður Magnúsdóttir 1984 2003-2016 110 37 Avaldsnes IL
9 Margrét Lára Viðarsdóttir 1986 2005-2016 112 77 Valur
16 Rakel Hönnudóttir 1988 2008-2016 75 5 Breiðablik

And of course the coaches:
Freyr Alexandersson
Ásmundur Haraldsson
Ólafur Pétursson