Iceland squad for Women’s Euro 2022: player profiles - Gunnarsdóttir, Viggósdóttir...
Led by star player Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, Iceland are appearing at the Women’s Euros for the fourth time in their history.
As part of the Guardian’s Women’s Euro 2022 Experts’ Network, a collaboration between media outlets from 16 countries, AS is offering in-depth profiles of the players in all 16 squads at the tournament, which runs from 6 to 31 July. This lowdown on the Iceland team is written by MBL’s Vidir Sigurdsson and Bjarni Helgason.
Date of birth: 30 March 1999
Hails from Iceland’s most eastern town, Neskaupstadur, and was playing as a striker but filled in as a goalkeeper and was invited to play with the Icelandic Under-17 team. She has never looked back. Played volleyball until she was 16 – “Looking back I think that has given me a really good grounding when it comes to goalkeeping,” she told frettabladid.is. Gained vital Champions League experience against teams such as Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid in the 2021-22 Champions League with Breidablik. Used to wear glasses in goal until she joined up with Iceland. “They told me it was dangerous but at first I needed help putting the contacts in,” she said.
Cecilía Rán Rúnarsdóttir
Date of birth: 26 July 2003
Grew up in Mosfellsbær and started playing for her local team Afturelding at a very young age. She progressed through the youth teams and played her first senior game in the Icelandic second division at the age of 13. Signed a three-year deal with Everton in August 2021 but has not been able to play for the club because of work permit issues so has been on loan at Örebro and Bayern Munich. Broke her hand late in the season and only just made these Euros. Mature beyond her years, she told ruv.is in 2020: “To be successful in sports, you have to be humble and kind. Those who are arrogant do not go far. I just want to be the best version I can be, both as a person and as a player, and I want to see where it gets me.”
Date of birth: 2 October 1986
A model professional with extraordinary longevity and fitness record. She has played the most games in the Icelandic Premier League – more than 300 – and has not missed a club game since 2014. All in all she has played more than 500 senior games, with her first season coming in 2001. For the national team she was for some time the No 2 or No 3 but has been elevated to first choice in the past few years. Had one spell abroad, in 2011, when she joined Swedish side Jitex but it ended badly with the two parties in dispute with Fifa finally ruling in the player’s favour. “I can’t wait to be back playing again,” Sigurdardóttir said after the verdict, “this has lifted a weight off my shoulders.”
Date of birth: 29 July 2000
Grew up in the small village of Höfn in the south-east of Iceland. It became quite clear early on that she was very good at football and when she started playing for FH in Hafnarfjörður, she had her parents to thank for enduring the hours-long car journeys there and back. Made her senior club debut in 2015 when she was 14. Joined Valur in the autumn of 2018 and won the league a year later before moving to Italy to join Milan. After a season spent on loan with Napoli, she is getting settled in the north of Italy. “I am a country girl but I am sure I will get used to living in a city,” she said. “My strengths are my speed and passing, but there is so much I can improve as a player.”
Date of birth: 29 July 1995
The tough-tackling defender won more challenges than any other player in the Swedish league in 2021 as her club, Rosengård, won the league title. Her uncle, Ómar Torfason, was a midfielder for Iceland back in the 80s. She grew up in the picturesque Ísafjörður but, after a spell with Santa Clara Broncos in California, has played in Sweden since 2018.
Date of birth: 15 July 1985
Born in Düsseldorf in 1985 while her father, Atli Edvaldsson, was playing professional football in the city at the time. Edvaldsson played 70 games for Iceland and later coached the national team. Atladóttir followed in his footsteps by joining a German club, Saarbrücken, in 2010, but moved to Sweden a year later. After 10 years with Kristianstad she is now back in Iceland and looks set to beat the all-time appearance record of league matches in Iceland this year. The mother-of-two is also on the board of the Icelandic football players’ union. In 2017 she told beatsandrhymesfc.com: “When I train I do it 100% because I haven’t got time to half-ass it. I’m a mum to a two-year-old, I’m a full time student and sometimes work as a personal trainer.”
Hallbera Guðný Gísladóttir
Date of birth: 14 September 1986
Club: IFK Kalmar
Arrives at this summer’s tournament with 19 seasons of top-flight football in her luggage. The daughter of a former vice-chairman of the Icelandic FA, she is now in her third spell in Damallsvenskan. Caused a controversy at the 2013 Euros in Sweden when she pretended to flush her “lucky goldfish” down the toilet after losing a match. The Swedes were not amused, nor were animal welfare organisations. She calmed them down by explaining that it was all a prank and that her Sigur-win was alive and well. Has been dubbed the team’s “DJ Razzberry” with Sif Atladóttir describing her as “good” on the decks in 2017. “She has a good sense of mixing new and old and anything in between.”
Áslaug Munda Gunnlaugsdóttir
Date of birth: 2 June 2001
The attacking left-back made a surprise return after a year’s absence because of injuries and studies at Boston’s Harvard University. She returned to Breidablik from the US after the 2022 Icelandic season started but it took her only five matches to convince coach Thorsteinn Halldórsson that she was back to her best. An extremely bright student, who has won academic prizes, as well as a promising footballer. At the Euros she is likely to act as a deputy left-back for the more experienced Hallbera Guðný Gísladóttir. “I will continue my studies but football will always be the No 1 for me,” Gunnlaugsdóttir told Icelandic Channel 2.
Date of birth: 7 October 1997
Hugely promising as a youngster and made her debut for Grindavík at the age of 14 before she was signed by Breidablik, which caused a stir in her home town. Knew that she was good and could not understand why she was not picked for the Icelandic youth teams. “Everyone knew what I could do but they wanted to give others a chance,” she told VG in 2020. After training with older boys, she made steady progress, making her senior international debut in 2017. A tough tackler – “I am not a dirty player but I am not going to leave anything on the pitch either,” she says – she could have ended up as a basketball player. She even played three top-flight games in the sport but felt that football “offered more of a chance to earn a living”.
Date of birth: 26 May 1991
It can’t have been easy, all the time, to have Margrét Lára Vidarsdóttir as your bigger sister. But that is the situation Elísa have found herself in. Margrét Lára is the record scorer for the national team and the anointed “queen of Icelandic football”. Not easy footsteps to follow, but Elísa has done extremely well – an energetic right-back, she had a spell in Sweden with Kristianstad in 2014-15 and captained Valur to the Icelandic championship in 2021.
Glódís Perla Viggósdóttir
Date of birth: 27 June 1995
Club: Bayern Munich
A titan of the game in Iceland and has been a permanent member of the national team since making her debut at the age of 18 in 2013 and playing at that year’s Euros. Played senior football for HK/Víkingur at the age of 14. Remarkably consistent, she played every single game for her two Swedish clubs, Eskilstuna United and Rosengård, between 2015 to 2021. Has won the league in Iceland, Sweden and with Bayern Munich in Germany. “You decide what you want to do and what your dream is,” she once said “and there may be sacrifices on the way to get there but that is part of it.”
Date of birth: 10 August 1991
Club: West Ham
After a long and successful career which has seen Brynjarsdóttir win the Icelandic title with Valur, the German title with Bayern Munich and an American title with Portland Thorns, she now plays for the club she has supported since growing up: West Ham. “My best friend was a supporter so I started following them too. It was a dream come true,” Brynjarsdóttir said after signing. Has been in superb form for the club over the past season. Gave birth to a baby boy in 2018 and said this year: “Before I was pregnant I thought life was football, but then I had my son and knew life was about more than football. Now it is up to clubs and media and everyone to see that even though you are a mum you can still be one of the best players in the world and compete with the best.” She once played a game at the Euro 2013 against Netherlands with a broken foot, even scoring a winner.
Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir
Date of birth: 29 September 1990
The star player of this Icelandic team, she has twice, in 2018 and 2020, been chosen as the overall Sports Personality of the Year (men and women) by the Icelandic Sportsjournalists Association. She is the only Icelandic player to have scored in a Champions League final, winning it twice with Lyon in 2020 and 2022. Won the Swedish league with Rosengård and the Bundesliga four times with Wolfsburg before moving to France. Gave birth last November but was back on the pitch in March. Hit out at the Euro 2022 organisers earlier this year over the use of Manchester City’s Academy Stadium as one of the tournament venues: “I don’t know what’s going on in their heads or if they’re even following women’s football.”
Date of birth: 19 March 2000
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
A huge talent, Jóhannsdóttir grew up playing for her local team Haukar in Hafnarfjörður and was often compared to Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir when she was young. It must have been quite a weight on the youngster’s shoulders but she signed for Breidablik in 2018 and promptly won the domestic double. In 2020 she joined Eintracht Frankfurt but had a hard time establishing herself in the starting XI and was loaned back to Breidablik to get more playing time. Multitalented, she did a lot of gymnastics and handball when she was younger. Asked what, aside from a strong mentality, was needed to make it in football she told Frettabladid: “Diet, sleep and strength. If I have to give good advice to young football girls, I would say that the most important thing is to attend all training sessions. It’s important to practice extra and always do your best.”
Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdóttir
Date of birth: 28 September 1988
Club: Orlando Pride
The team’s enforcer, she loves to throw herself into tackles in midfield or attempt blocks in her own penalty area. Her work-rate and determination are hugely appreciated by teammates, as is her experience: she is now in her 20th season as a first-team player. Now with Orlando Pride, she has gone three NWSL seasons without missing a single game. Captained Iceland when Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir was on maternity leave. Had not played football in Iceland and only started when she and her mother moved to the US when she was in her third year of primary school. “I didn’t understand or speak the language, but I could play football,” she told the Utah Royals podcast.
Selma Sól Magnúsdóttir
Date of birth: 23 April 1988
Joined Rosenborg this year after some impressive performances with Breidablik in the Champions League. She has had two bad injuries but has seemingly come back stronger from both. A Liverpool fan, she cites Steven Gerrard as her favourite ever player and says that she finds it impossible to lie: “I simply can’t do it.” When she joined Rosenborg the coach, Steinar Lein, praised her mentality and said there were “many areas where she can improve”.
Karólína Lea Vilhjálmsdóttir
Date of birth: 8 August 2001
Club: Bayern Munich
Aged just 20 but won the Frauen Bundesliga in 2021, six months after joining Bayern Munich. “It is a bit crazy to win such a title at such a young age,” she said. “I have had to adapt when it comes to playing time and other things but I always try to stay humble and work on the things I have to work on.” Has already improved immensely since leaving Breidablik. “They are trying to make me into a German machine,” she has said. Her uncle is Gylfi Sigurdsson and her father, Vilhjálmur Kári Haraldsson, is also a former player. He was Breidablik’s head coach in the 2021 season and helped the team secure a place in the Champions League group stage. Vilhjálmsdóttir played for Breidablik between 2018 and 2022 and won the domestic double during her first season with the club.
Agla María Albertsdóttir
Date of birth: 5 August 1999
Managed six goals for Breidablik in the Champions League qualifying stage last season, but does not only score goals, she sets them up too and was the “assist queen” in her home country in 2020 and 2021, scoring or assisting 57 in 33 matches for her club during that period. Signed with Swedish top-flight club Häcken before the 2022 season. “They play an attacking football, high on the pitch and that was appealing for me,” she said.
Amanda Jacobsen Andradóttir
Date of birth: 18 December 2003
Has dual nationality and could have chosen to play for Norway but Iceland acted quickly and called her up to the senior team while their neighbours had only offered her a place in the Under-19 squad. Not afraid to take a step into the unknown, she moved to Denmark as a 15-year-old to join Fortuna Hjørring. A year later she signed for Nordsjælland and – after a spell with Vålerenga in Norway – she is now at Sweden’s Kristianstad. Her father, Andri Sigthórsson, was a professional footballer as was her uncle, Kolbeinn Sigthórsson, who memorably scored the decisive goal for Iceland against England at the 2016 Euros.
Svava Rós Guðmundsdóttir
Date of birth: 11 November 1995
Back in Scandinavia after a spell with Bordeaux in France that did not work out after a change in coach meant a lack of playing time. “I will not go so far as to say that I am grateful for what I experienced in France,” she told Morgunbladid, “but I came out of the experience as a stronger individual and a better player in my opinion. It is always difficult to deal with such adversity, which you have little or no control over, but hopefully I won’t have to experience anything like it again.” When she signed for Brann at the start of last season, her then coach, Alexander Straus, described her as “a player with a lot of speed, power and ability to break through opposing defences”.
Elín Metta Jensen
Date of birth: 1 March 1995
Has represented Valur since the age of 15 and has scored 127 goals in 170 league matches for the club. She has often been linked with a move abroad but she has always decided to stay in Iceland and continue her university studies. “You always think there’s something magical about the success of your role models,” she told 66° North. The reality is that you just have to be dedicated and put in a lot of hard work.” She has been a national team player since 2012, and says playing for Iceland can be special at times, for more than one reason: “I remember a time when we literally had to shovel snow off the pitch at what was supposed to be the start of summer”.
Sveindís Jane Jónsdóttir
Date of birth: 5 June 2001
Born and raised in Keflavík by an Icelandic father and Ghanaian mother, she made her senior team debut at the age of 14. After several successful seasons, including promotion to the top flight, she was loaned to Breidablik, where she won the league and the Golden Boot in 2020. A move to Wolfsburg followed and after a loan spell with Kristianstad in Sweden she has established herself in Germany, recently extending her contract to 2025. Still only 21, she faced Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals this season and won the Bundesliga with her club. Has a very powerful throw-in. “I have never practised them,” she says. “I have always just been able to throw the ball like this since I was a kid.” Loves knitting, and has been studying to become a personal trainer on a distance learning course.
Berglind Björg Thorvaldsdóttir
Date of birth: 18 January 1992
We are not sure exactly what they fed Thorvaldsdóttir and her brother Gunnar Heidar Thorvaldsson when they were growing up, but it resulted in a hunger for goals. Thorvaldsson, 10 years the senior, went on to have a hugely successful and goal-laden career around Europe while Thorvaldsdóttir has become the country’s most successful goalscorer abroad ever. Add to that 137 top-flight goals back home and it is easy to see why she has been part of the national team set-up since 2010. Has also studied to become a psychologist and told Aftonbladet in 2021: “I like psychology and how it works, and how you live your life. My aim is to work with athletes in the future, mentality is a big factor in elite sport.” Asked whether she thinks her studies is already helping her on the pitch, she said: “Yes, as soon as something unexpected happens I know how to deal with it.”