Iceland aim to end a run of two 13th-place finishes from their last EHF EURO tournaments.
The team has called for the fans’ patience during its rebuilding phase, but the demand of a good performance is as high as in the past.
The message this time is the same as it was leading up to major tournaments in the past: to entertain the people during Iceland’s dark month of January.
Three questions before the Men’s EHF EURO 2020:
- Can Iceland cherish realistic hopes for a medal?
No, is the clear answer of Iceland head coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson.
“We are reconstructing our team and our long-term goal is to be among the best eight teams in two or three years,” Gudmundsson said. “The team is too young to set our sight on a medal just yet.”
- How will the combination of experience and talent work out?
Coach Gudmundsson has been adding more young players to his squad, which contains an interesting mixture.
“I really like the blend in the team. We have given more young and promising players more trust,” he said. “The youngest is 18 years old, many others are also not even 20 yet. Then we have the more experienced players, like Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson and Aron Palmarsson, who are there to share their wisdom with the young ones.”
- What is the key to Iceland’s success at the EHF EURO 2020?
Iceland will need a strong team performance to stand any chance of advancing from their group.
“We need to play at our very best in every single game, in attack and defence, and our goalkeeping must be at its best,” Gudmundsson said. “We are up against three very difficult opponents: Denmark, Russia and Hungary. We want to reach the main round, but our group is extremely tough.”
Under the spotlight: Aron Palmarsson
Enjoying an outstanding season with Barça in the VELUX EHF Champions League, Palmarsson is on top of his form physically. Will he be able to build on that at the EHF EURO? Although he stars as a playmaker on club level, he is the first choice left back with Iceland, where it is important to see his name on top of the scoresheet. However, the rotation between positions could affect his performance when he is needed the most in January.
Iceland have the potential to do well, but the younger and less experienced players need to be mentally ready from the first minute. Iceland have their work cut out from the very beginning, taking on current world and Olympic champions Denmark in the first match of the tournament in Malmö. There is no time to adapt.
“Denmark will basically be on home court. I think 90 percent of the tickets has been sold to their supporters,” said Gudmundsson, underlining the importance of good mental preparation.
Gudmundsson is in his third spell as Iceland national team coach, entering his first EHF EURO in eight years with his home country. During his second spell with the team, in 2008-12, Iceland had their golden era with a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics and bronze at the EHF EURO 2010. The hope is that Iceland’s reconstruction period under Gudmundsson will eventually lead them to the top again.