What happened to Iceland's heroes who stunned England at Euro 2016?

We look at three players who flourished and three who faded after the team’s extraordinary success four years ago

Three who flourished

Johann Berg Gudmundsson The winger came into Euro 2016 on the back of relegation from the Championship with Charlton, although he had jointly topped the division’s assist charts. More fine performances in France brought a move to the Premier League and Burnley, where he has been an important and highly effective operator. Last season was fraught with thigh problems but Gudmundsson, who had started the campaign in excellent form, is fit again and will be expected to add a degree of attacking unpredictability to Sean Dyche’s side once more. Like several of his teammates, he will not face England because of club commitments.

Hannes Halldorsson At first glance the goalkeeper’s spell at Qarabag, which brought only eight appearances after he joined them in the wake of Russia 2018, appears to have been a failure. But Halldorsson, who was 34 at the time, still played in the Champions League qualifiers and Europa League group stage for the Azeri club. These days he is back in the local league with Valur. Given that he spent the early years of his career slogging through Iceland’s lower divisions, before finding the time to direct the country’s Eurovision entry in 2012 among other projects, it goes down as a life supremely well lived.

Birkir Mar Saevarsson He never made it big in club football, but Saevarsson matched Halldorsson in extracting the very most from his talent. Iceland’s marauding right-back was 31, and a solid enough performer in the Scandinavian leagues, when Euro 2016 came around. It meant a high-profile move was never really likely, but the unexpected Indian summer of his career continued in their World Cup campaign and he was capped as recently as January in a win over El Salvador. Saevarsson, rangy and tremendously fit, still plays for Valur alongside Halldorsson and famously combined that with working in a salt packing factory prior to Russia 2018.

Three who faded

Kolbeinn Sigthorsson The winning goal Sigthorsson squeezed past Joe Hart was the pinnacle – and what a pinnacle – of a career that always promised slightly more. Had it not been for a serious knee injury that robbed him of 18 months after Euro 2016, he could well have realised the vast potential shown during spells with AZ and Ajax. But he barely played again for his then-employers, Nantes, and has struggled to find the net for AIK in Sweden since joining last year. A return to form at international level last year – scoring three times in Euro 2020 qualifying – did, however, suggest he has the appetite to torment England once more.

Kolbeinn Sigthorsson scores Iceland’s winner against England.
Kolbeinn Sigthorsson scores Iceland’s winner against England. Photograph: Lars Baron/Getty Images

Ragnar Sigurdsson Forged a telepathic central-defensive unit alongside his golfing buddy Kari Arnason, with whom he even holidayed in Thailand the year before. He swept in Iceland’s equaliser against England and briefly found himself the talk of Europe, with Liverpool among several big guns strongly linked. Eventually he joined Fulham from Krasnodar, settling for a year in the Championship, but the move did not work out and, via further spells in Russia with Rubin Kazan and Rostov, he now plays for Copenhagen. At 34, he remains important to the national team but will not play against England.

Gylfi Sigurdsson First, the good bits: Iceland’s one genuine star was crucial in their World Cup qualifying campaign and broke the deadlock in their deciding fixture against Kosovo. But it has been a mixed bag at club level, where a £40m move to Everton in 2017 has brought significant ups and downs. Sigurdsson’s second season at Goodison Park, in 2018-19, brought sustained good form and 13 top-flight goals. Last term, though, bordered on the disastrous and, with Carlo Ancelotti strengthening his creative midfield resources, his future looks unclear. A move to DC United has been mooted but surely Sigurdsson, still just 30, has a few more good seasons at the top level left in him.

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Team that beat England Halldorsson; Saevarsson, Arnason, R Sigurrdsson, Skulason; Gudmundsson, G Sigurdsson, Gunnarsson, B Bjarnason; Sigthorsson (T Bjarnason, 77), Bodvarsson (Traustason, 89).


Nick Ames

The GuardianTramp

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