Norwegian football fans, disappointed that their own national team didn’t qualify to play in the European Championships, were cheering nonetheless after Iceland beat England in a victory Monday night that’s been branded as nothing short of sensational.
Norwegian fans latched on to Iceland as a fellow Nordic nation that also has several players who have played for Norwegian clubs. The two countries have long had close ties and also share status as non-members of the EU and fellow members of the alternative European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
It was sensational in itself that Iceland’s team, representing a country with a population of less than 400,000, qualified to compete against the giants of the football world in the European Championships (Euro2016). Now it also has conquered England and proven itself unbeatable during the Euro2016 preliminaries. It also qualified to play in the quarter-finals, up against France on Sunday night.
It was a new sort of Brexit (British exit) loss for English football fans, leading to some of the world’s most famous players crying on the field and the immediate resignation of national coach Roy Hodgson, just days after Britain’s prime minister resigned as well. It’s been a rough several days for many British citizens, while the Icelanders were thrilled.
Newspaper Aftenposten claimed that Iceland now “sits on the throne” of Nordic football, after Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland lost whatever status they had. While Iceland’s team has been criticized for being too defensive on the field, “no one puts more of their heart into the game than the Icelanders, and therefore the commentators are saying: Iceland deserves this,” wrote Aftenposten’s Ola Bernhus.
Thousands of Norwegian fans are now expected to tune in when Iceland’s kickoff against France begins at 9pm Sunday on NRK1.