Iceland Euro 2016 team guide: tactics, key players and expert predictions

The Iceland squad led by Lars Lagerback and Heimer Hallgrimsson will rely much on their central midfielders Aron Gunnarsson and Gylfi Sigurdsson

This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2016 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the countries who have qualified for France. is running previews from three countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 10 June.

With a 4-4-2 formation favoured by the coaching team and used to impressive effect in qualifying, it is the central midfield partnership of Aron Gunnarsson and Gylfi Sigurdsson that will prove pivotal for Iceland. It is a system that has been implemented since Lars Lagerback and Heimer Hallgrimsson took charge in 2012 but it was not until a World Cup qualifier a year later that Sigurdsson assumed a more central role, shining in a 4-4 draw with Switzerland.

The Swansea midfielder had previously been used on the wing or as a second striker but he has blossomed alongside the more defensive Gunnarsson – a tough player who relies upon excellent positioning – whereas most of Iceland’s attacking moves flow through Sigurdsson.

As demonstrated in his two spells at Swansea, and perhaps to a slightly lesser extent at Tottenham, Sigurdsson’s long-range shooting will always make him a threat, but his work ethic and willingness to defend when dovetailing with Gunnarson should not be overlooked and both players seem almost irreplaceable if Iceland are to perform well at the tournament.

The key for Lagerback and Hallgrimsson in the 4-4-2 system is that each and every player contributes defensively in a side that kept six clean sheets in qualification, including both matches against Holland, and Iceland have the ability to counter at pace once the ball has been won.

After Sigurdsson and Gunnarson the next most important player, and one certain to start, is Birkir Bjarnason, who is equally at home on either wing. Bjarnason represents better than most the hard work and self-sacrifice sought by the managers, and as well as possessing excellent technique he has a great eye for creating goals.

Johann Gudmundsson or Emil Hallfredsson will most likely fill the other wing position, with Gudmundsson another who is dangerous from long range while the latter offers a better defensive option.

Up front Kolbeinn Sigthorsson has played a big part in Iceland’s improvement in recent years, and has scored 19 goals in 37 matches. He has had a difficult season with Nantes in France and has been struggling with injury, but he and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson did a fantastic job in the qualification, troubling opponents on and off the ball.

Alfred Finnbogason has not had many opportunities but he will provide backup and is knocking heavily on the door after an excellent season in the Bundesliga with Augsburg.

At the back, Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kari Arnason are an experienced and settled partnership, having played together consistently over the last four years. Sigurdsson in particular has impressed – he is composed and reads the game well.

Ari Skulason is the more offensive full-back, having previously played as a midfielder for a number of his club teams, and he possesses a dangerous left foot. He lacks a bit of height but has a bigger heart than most. On the other side Birkir Sævarsson is a reliable right-back while the goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson has developed into a key playe. If he can rediscover the form he showed before suffering a shoulder injury last autumn, he will catch the eye.

Probable starting XI


Which Iceland player will take everyone by surprise at Euro 2016?

Ragnar Sigurdsson, a solid centre-half who plays for Krasnodar in Russia. Turning 30 the day after the match against Hungary, Ragnar has perhaps been the most important member of Iceland’s defence, playing in every minute of the qualification campaign.

Ragnar Sigurdsson
Ragnar Sigurdsson could be a key presence for Iceland in defence.

Which player could be a disappointment?At 26 Kolbeinn Sigthorsson is already Iceland’s second highest goalscorer with 19 goals in 37 matches but he has struggled at Nantes, managing to find the net just three times in Ligue 1 this season, and a knee injury ruled him out of the end of the campaign. Sigthorsson has been a key player in Iceland’s attack but his injury and an evident lack of confidence have put his participation in jeopardy.

How far do you think Iceland will go and why?It is a realistic aim for Iceland to reach the last 16. One victory could be enough to claim third place in the group and their record in qualification shows what this group of players is capable of.

Sindri Sverrisson writes for Morgunbladid.

Follow him here on Twitter.

Click here for a profile of Iceland’s Aron Gunnarsson

Sindri Sverrisson

The GuardianTramp

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