5 teams nobody expected to qualify for Euro 2016
The frigid Arctic nation, once Europe’s whipping boys alongside Luxembourg, have built on their success in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying, where they, unfortunately, lost in the playoffs. Like Albania, this will be their first appearance at a major international tournament (their entry in the 1954 World Cup was rejected by FIFA).
Handed a tough group in qualifying, the Icelanders surprised everyone by finishing second to the Czech Republic, finishing ahead of a superior Turkey and European powerhouse the Netherlands. In doing so, they conceded a mere six goals, a marked improvement on the fifteen they conceded on their way to the playoffs for the World Cup.
They also took their chances well on the offense, spearheaded by Swansea man Gyifi Sigurdsson, who scored six goals of their 17 in the qualifying campaign, including braces in a 3-0 demolition of Turkey and a 2-0 upset of the Netherlands. Consistency will be one area the Icelanders would be looking to work on, given that they dropped quite a few points in the second half of the campaign, losing to Turkey and drawing against Kazakhstan and Latvia.
It will undoubtedly be an emotional moment for former Barcelona striker Eidur Gudjohnsen, who gets a tournament appearance nineteen years into an illustrious career. At 37, he’ll be one of the stalwarts looking for a swansong, with Cardiff City midfielder Aron Gunnarsson expected to spearhead the challenge, along with scoring the occasional goals, and Sigurdsson providing the spark in attack yet again.