The Vikings Who Shocked Ronaldo: The Unbelievable Rise of Icelandic Football

With a population of just 325,000, Iceland has long been a footballing minnow. 16 years ago, the nation decided to change that.

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22 June 2016, 10:15am


With a population of just 325,000, Iceland has long been a footballing minnow. 16 years ago, the nation decided to change that, developing a bold and unprecedented masterplan that transformed the tiny volcanic island into one of the sport's most effective youth development pipelines.

Against all odds, that investment has paid off, producing a peerless generation of footballers. Their collective play, unshakeable confidence and will to win made Iceland the smallest ever nation to qualify for a major tournament at Euro 2016, and pound-for-pound the sport's greatest micropower. Just ask Cristiano Ronaldo.

Roger Bennett went to Reykjavik to meet the visionaries, players, coaches and fans who made what had seemed a far-fetched dream at the outset become fantastically real.

READ MORE: How Iceland's Two Mangers Built Its Greatest Team Ever