by Tom Lees - 13th January 2016
With the 2016 European Championships now just a few months away, here at FanFormation, we will be taking a close look at each Nation competing and how they fare once the big event in France kicks off. As part of our pre-tournament preview, we will be going through each Country and highlighting three of the youngsters, on the fringes of selection, who will be hoping to make their Nations final squad.
Lars Lagerbäck’s Iceland are under the spotlight today, one of the surprise qualifiers for Euro 2016. They came so close to qualification for the 2014 World Cup finals but fell short in the playoff round, and used this disappointment as a motivating force behind their impressive qualification to the 2016 European Championship finals. The first International tournament finals in Iceland’s history.
The Icelandic squad is a fairly established one now, and as it’s their first attempt in major tournament finals, it’ll be highly unlikely that they will risk taking young unproven players to the tournament. Iconic figure Eidur Gudjohnsen has come out of retirement and his experience will be key during the finals, and a lot of hopes will ride on the shoulders of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthórsson. There are some talented young players on the fringes of the squad, and if gaps in the squad present themselves these are the likely candidates to step up to the plate.
As a recent addition to the Icelandic national squad Emil Pálsson is perhaps best placed to break into the European Championship party. Although still currently uncapped, Pálsson has quietly worked his way through the Iceland national youth teams, playing at both Under 19 and Under 21 levels.
At domestic level Pálsson began representing his club FH Hafnarfjördur on a regular basis in 2013, after garnering a handful of appearances in the preceding seasons. His performances were solid if not spectacular for the next 2 years and he would find himself sent on loan to fellow Úrvalsdeild side Fjölnir in 2015. Pálsson would find himself recalled from loan by FH after only 10 appearances for Fjölnir, and his career upon his return to FH would really start to gather momentum. 6 goals in 12 league games and a regular starter in the clubs Europa League campaign would catch the attention of Lars Lagerbäck and he was included in the latest Iceland squad get together.
A strongly built attacking midfielder, Pálsson has shown he is a solid squad player who is not afraid to join the attack in order to find goal scoring positions. He is a long way away from the finished article, but if he continues his recent form for his club then expect his name to be included in the Iceland squad that travels to France this summer.
ELÍAS MÁR ÓMARSSON
Young forward Elías Már Ómarsson has already represented Iceland at senior level, making three sub appearances during friendly games in 2015. He has also come through the various Icelandic youth national setups at Under 17, 19 and 21 levels. At club level Ómarsson began his career at Keflavík in Iceland, where he turned in some steady performances in attack, particularly in 2014 as he bagged 6 goals in 20 games. This earnt the youngster a move to Norway’s Tippeligaen, as Valerenga brought the teenage striker in to spice up their front line. It has been a fairly good start to his career in Norway with a handful of goals scored in his appearances so far, he provides a constant threat although his goals ratio could still use some work.
Slight of frame but with quick feet and a burst of pace that would trouble any defender, Ómarsson has a high energy style of play that makes him a constant nuisance and danger. He can pick a pass, makes clever runs and has the skills to beat a man in one on one situations. A flexible forward able to either drop off the front, drift wide or even operate as a fox in the box, Ómarsson has a lot of talent and could go on to be a permanent fixture in the Iceland front line. A major critique that can be levelled at the forward is his lack of goals so far in his career, and this is something that he needs to work on. However, the basics are all there, and his game is full of effort so the goals will come in time.
I believe Ómarsson has an outside chance of making the European Championship squad, his high energy may be the perfect option to bring off the bench late in games. He may require a strong run of form at club level to tip the balance in his favour.
Young defensive midfielder Oliver Sigurjónsson began his youth career with Breidablik in Iceland before moving to Denmark when he was 16 and signing with AGF. He would never go on to make an appearance for the Danish side however and returned back to Breidablik in 2014 and began his career in the Úrvalsdeild. Sigurjónsson would only make 5 appearances in his debut season, with only one of those as a game starter and it seemed as though his career had got off to a slow start at a domestic level.
When the 2015 season kicked off however all this changed, as he would play and start in 19 league games for Breidablik, scoring two goals. Sigurjónsson showed that he was a powerful, combative midfielder and a leader on the pitch. His class and leadership really shone through in a September Under 21 International victory over an impressive France team, a 3-2 win where Sigurjónsson captained his side and netted two crucial penalties.
His performances in 2015 earnt him his first senior International call up in November, where he would come on as a late substitute in the friendly against Slovakia. This completed his International set having represented Iceland at Under 17, 19 and 21 level previously. Iceland currently have a strong and experienced midfield so the chances of Sigurjónsson going to France are slim as it stands, but if he continues his from through early 2016 then his chance may come.
OTHER PLAYERS OF NOTE
Iceland have a number of promising young talents that are beginning to break though for their various club sides, the issue of lack of playing time will ultimately make their inclusions in Euro 2016 unlikely. Árni Vilhjálmsson is a young forward that has shown plenty of promise and is currently on the books of Lilleström in Norway, he is sure to have an International career ahead of him but will be a surprise if he travels to France this summer.
Adam Örn Arnarson is an impressive young right back who is currently playing for FC Nordsjaelland in Denmark, having also gained experience previously playing in the Netherlands. Arnarson could yet make the final squad having shown good Under 21 form, but is yet to be selected at senior level. Another impressive defensive member of the Under 21 setup is Orri Sigurður Ómarsson of Valur Reykjavík, a player with vast experience at International youth level and for his club side and he will be desperate to make the trip. He does deserve an International call up but his time is running out on him.
A young attacking midfielder that may yet get a call from Lagerbäck is Aron Elís Þrándarson, who has been on great form in Norway for his club side Aalesunds. His goal threat from midfield may be necessary depending on injuries to the senior members of the Iceland squad. Finally, over in Eindhoven, PSV have a couple of promising young players in their reserve side. Centre back Hjörtur Hermannsson, and attacking midfielder Albert Guðmundsson have looked impressive for the PSV second team. Guðmundsson in particular looks like a star of the future and a lot will be expected in Iceland of the 18-year-old. Neither look likely as of yet to feature for the senior Iceland side though, but their futures at that level do look bright.
So there we have it, my look at the youngsters hoping to make it to the European Championships with Iceland. What are you expecting from the Icelandic team in France this year?
Iceland were drawn in Group F, alongside Portugal, Austria and Hungary and begin their tournament in Saint-Etienne on June 14th against group favourites Portugal. Expectations are low for Iceland, outside of Iceland at least, but the same was said before qualifying began and look what happened there.