Unsung heroes lift little Iceland

GROUP F

Iceland v Austria

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PARIS • Should tournament debutants Iceland reach the knockout stages of Euro 2016 by securing the result they need against Austria today, much credit will go to a dentist and a film director.

Iceland, with a population of about 330,000, are the smallest country ever to qualify for the tournament, yet they have been undaunted by their casting as minnows, holding Portugal and Hungary to 1-1 draws in Group F through resilient displays.

That means a win, or perhaps another draw, against Austria, will put them in the knockout stages, a fairy-tale outcome which could make for an excellent movie script.

Goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson would be the ideal judge of that, having halted his film career to become a full-time professional in 2014, first in Norway and then the Netherlands.

The 32-year-old, who directed the video for Iceland's 2012 Eurovision song contest entry, has made 14 saves - the most by any goalkeeper at the tournament.

"We've created some good chances so maybe that is the way against Austria, to stay back and let them come," joint coach Heimir Hallgrimsson said.

Hallgrimsson, who will take sole charge of the team when co-coach Lars Lagerback retires this summer, maintains a dental surgery in a small town in Iceland.

He urged his players to use the ball better against an Austrian team who were considered potential dark horses but who have registered only one point and no goal. "They seem to be a little bit lacking in the two games they've played. Let's hope it will continue," Hallgrimsson said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Unsung heroes lift little Iceland'. Print Edition | Subscribe