As the Icelandic hordes descended on St. Etienne in eastern France to watch their heroes play Portugal, it was one of the largest ever gatherings of Icelanders outside the island: more than 30,000, a tenth of the population, had bought tickets for UEFA Euro 2016. Iceland’s very presence at the Championships came against all the odds. Four years ago, Iceland, which has a beer named after 1967’s disastrous 2-14 defeat to Denmark, had been ranked no. 131 worldwide by FIFA.
One thing is as clear as the crystal waters of the Cote D’Azur which line the way to the majestic Stade de Nice stadium: Iceland is ready to go to battle with England. Ahead of their EURO 2016 Round of 16 clash in Nice on Monday, the Icelandic group called this match a “win-win” situation. Nobody expects them to beat England but the tiny nation which has won the hearts of fans across the globe during this tournament isn’t going down without a fight. Sat in front of the media on Sunday, Iceland’s joint-manager Heimir Hallgrimsson delivered a rousing and poignant response when asked about the infamous “cod wars” between Iceland and England, a dispute from 1958-61 regarding fishing rights in the North Atlantic.