Iceland's Euro 2016 fairy tale has a new chapter after they guaranteed their place in the knockout stages, courtesy of a dramatic last-gasp victory over Austria. Having turned in a heroic defensive performance, the Scandinavian major tournament debutantes broke free in stoppage time to score a second in a 2-1 win, with the goal coming courtesy of young substitute Arnor Ingvi Traustason.
Credit: user rodrigoelcrack on r/soccer
The goal was ultimately inconsequential for an Austria team that needed the victory to stand any chance of progressing, though it certainly had meaning for Iceland. It meant they snatched second place in the group from Portugal by dint of a better goal difference, ensuring they don't need to rely on finishing as one of the best four third-place finishers to make it into the knockout round. They'll now face England in Nice in the next phase, and are sure to be high on confidence heading in.
The team joint-coached by Lars Lagerbäck and Heimir Hallgrímsson certainly couldn't match the flair of the Austrians in their 2-1 win, but it was a victory of bravery and outstanding tactical discipline. They made the bold move of starting the game with two strikers up top, though their outstanding workrate ensured that Austria struggled for space in the final third for the entire match. David Alaba, who was billed as one of the potential stars of the competitions, barely featured.
Of course, Iceland also had some much-needed help from Lady Luck, evident when defender Aleksandar Dragović stepped up and struck a first-half penalty against Hannes Halldórsson's goalpost. However, their organization stood in marked contrast to Austria's seeming bemusement, as Marcel Koller's side bombarded the Iceland box with crosses, usually failing to find their intended target.
But perhaps most impressive of all was the fact that Iceland were able to maintain concentration for the full duration of an extremely taxing match, even down to netting the winner in the dying moments of the game. England will surely be happy with the day's events, as they dodge Portugal and meet Iceland instead. But Roy Hodgson's side can't afford to get complacent. Iceland have now proven that they're much more than plucky no-hopers; they've got the discipline and industry that can frustrate some of the game's best.
Cristiano Ronaldo infamously criticized Iceland's "small mentality" after Iceland managed a 1-1 draw over Portugal in their tournament opener. He may now be eating his words.