- Iceland leave Russia with the drive to achieve more
- Heimir Hallgrimsson's side have proven their place was justified
- Changes likely to come as age catches up with rearguard
By Petur Hreinsson with Iceland
“I think we can all agree on that this is what we live for. To be playing at the World Cup and the Euros is the most enjoyable experience we have had. It’s a bit hard to say now, but we aim to qualify for the next major tournament.”
Amid the heartbreak after Iceland’s brave defeat to Croatia, Gylfi Sigurdsson was already looking onward and upward.
After their adventure in France two years ago, there were voices of doubt that the Icelandic appetite for glory could not drive them to another triumphant milestone. These voices were, however, silenced when the team qualified for the World Cup and again, were there any left, following the team’s impressive start of the tournament by drawing against Argentina.
“There were people that thought our hunger for success was lacking after the EUROs, but then we qualified for the World Cup. Our next objective is to qualify again for the EUROs,” Johann Gudmudsson said after being eliminated. “It’s going to be hard, but we’ve shown that we have an incredible team, and hopefully we’ll manage to achieve it."
Iceland finished last in its group despite that fact they were only a pair of goals away from knocking Lionel Messi and La Albiceleste out of the competition. That fact is yet more proof that Iceland’s presence at two consecutive major tournaments is no miracle and time for sceptics has passed. If the team retains its style and identity, anything is possible.
“I think we leave here content. It’s been an incredible experience. We often speak of reaching the next mountain top. We have climbed one, which was the World Cup. Now, we’ll relax and gather strength. After that, we set the goal for the next one,” Iceland’s striker Alfred Finnbogason said.
Without taking any credit of the rest of their team-mates, these three players will play a key role offensively in securing further success for the Icelandic team. More changes can however be expected in Iceland’s back four in the near future, which is not getting any younger.
Defender Kari Arnason, 35, was Iceland’s oldest player in Russia. Together with Ragnar Sigurdsson, 32, the pair have developed a formidable partnership in the heart of the Icelandic defence during its golden era. Arnason, along with Saevarsson, 33, in the right-back position, will most likely play in the Icelandic league this summer, a move that is usually followed by an increased distance from the national team. Arnason’s obvious replacement is Sverrir Ingason, who seems to be a perfect candidate to secure the spine of the team and steer it in the future.
Filling the shoes of the wine-importing Emil Hallfredsson, 34, who plays for Udinese, is perhaps the most demanding question Iceland will have to answer in the near future. Hallfredsson was perhaps Iceland’s best player at the World Cup but the fact that he seems only to be getting better with age like his wine is slightly encouraging.