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Iceland is ranked 28th among the best football nations in the world in the most recent FIFA ranking. Iceland has a population of only 325.000 people (ranks nr 181 in the world in total population) and has only 20.000 players. Yet Iceland has footballers playing in all the major top leagues (England, Spain, Italy etc.) Iceland is ranked higher than all the Scandinavian countries now for the first time in history. In it´s most recent match Iceland beat Netherlands 2-0 in a EURO qualifier and they are sitting at the top of their group after 3-0 wins against Latvia and Turkey. Iceland was very close to qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil, they lost in the playoffs against Croatia. Iceland would have become the smallest country ever to qualify for a World Cup.
Iceland´s women´s national team reached the quarterfinals at the Women´s EURO 2013 in Sweden. They also qualified for the Women´s Euro 2009. The U21 men´s national team was among the top 8 nations at the EURO 2011 in Denmark. Iceland´s youth national teams regularly qualify for final tournaments.
Maybe it is a good idea for others to have a look at what Iceland is doing in their player development?
The leading goalscorer in the top league in Netherlands was Alfred Finnbogason, he is Icelandic.
The leading goalscorer in the Norwegian top league is Vidar Orn Kjartansson, he is Icelandic.
Or maybe you heard of Gylfi Sigurdsson at Swansea who has been one of the best players in the English Premier league this season who scored both goals against Netherlands in Iceland´s last match?
Iceland has around 90 professional players playing abroad.
Iceland has the shortest football season in the world, has limited financial resources and has the 5th smallest population among the 53 UEFA nations. Yet they outperform much bigger countries with much more resources every year.
Iceland also has a unique model in their player development that other countries can learn from. They have put a heavy emphasis on educating all the coaches at all levels since 2002 and have invested heavily in winter facilities to make football a year round sport. All coaches in Iceland at all levels get paid, there are no volunteer coaches or parent coaches and they develop all players, not just the best ones. A very high percentage of all coaches have completed the UEFA coaching licences, even the grassroots coaches working with beginners. Few countries do better in developing young players than Iceland.
If you are interested in more information about how Iceland outperforms around 150 bigger countries in football or if you would like to buy a presentation on the topic, please contact me…
Ex technical director/coach education director, F.A. of Iceland 2002-2014
Iceland´s Women´s national team head coach 2007-2013
UEFA Pro licence coach from the English F.A.