IcelandCoach: Gudmundur Gudmundsson
With a career spanning over four decades, Guðmundur Guðmundsson has been synonymous with Iceland’s best performances in handball, namely a silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games and a bronze medal at the Men’s EHF EURO 2010, being touted as a national hero in the small Nordic country.
After stints as Denmark’s and Bahrain’s men’s national team coach, Guðmundsson has been back as Iceland’s coach since 2018 in his third stint in this position.
Egypt 2021 will be Guðmundsson’s sixth World Championship appearance as a coach – fourth with the Icelandic squad, two with Denmark – yet for all his success, he has never won a World Championship medal.
The Icelandic side have found pride in continuity, relying on experienced players that played even into their 40s.
However, after scoring 1,875 goals in 364 caps for Iceland since his debut in 1999, left wing Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson decided to retire, as the team finally started a thorough makeover of their aging squad.
Experience is still there, in the form of centre back Aron Palmarsson. Barça’s superstar playmaker will once again be the mastermind behind the Icelandic attacks, while 40-year-old right back Alexander Petersson’s aim is to still pour goals in.
Young talents like goalkeeper Viktor Gísli Hallgrímsson and line player Ýmir Örn Gíslason are trying to break through the ranks and establish their names.
Moreover, right back Viggo Kristjansson has been in superb form in the first match days of the German Bundesliga, while promising 21-year-old back Gísli Thorgeir Kristjánsson has made significant steps to clinch a place in the Icelandic team after coming back from two injuries.
“The Icelandic team is largely made up of young players, as our captain, Aron Palmarsson, will lead the team and his experience will surely be key,” said Guðmundsson.
Dreaming about a medal to complete his collection is not on Guðmundsson’s mind yet – Iceland know they have their work cut out for them at Egypt 2021.
“Our group, that features Portugal, Algeria and Morocco, is strong. Handball has brought up unexpected surprises in the last tournaments, therefore we need to prepare well to be at the top of our game each time we play. But I do like the group we were drawn into,” stated the Icelandic coach.
The Nordic side will meet Portugal in their first game at Egypt 2021, on 14 January, a team against which they will also play twice during the Men’s EHF EURO 2022 qualification phase, on 6 and 9 January.
With promising 19-year-old centre back Haukur Thrastarsson out until next summer due to an injury, Iceland’s objective looks set to be a main round berth.
“Our first goal is to proceed to the next round, with good results in the preliminary round,” said Guðmundsson, who will surely set his sights for something greater.
Yet Iceland have never broken into the top 10 of a World Championship since 2011 and, therefore, the Nordic side must bring something special to the table if they are to replicate the sixth-place finish of 2011.
Key players: Aron Pálmarsson (centre back), Björgvin Páll Gústavsson (goalkeeper), Alexander Petersson (right back)
Qualification for Egypt 2021: Men’s EHF EURO 2020 – 12th place (two-legged Egypt 2021 Play-off cancelled due to COVID-19)
History in tournament: 1958: 10th, 1961: 6th, 1964: 9th, 1970: 11th, 1974: 14th, 1978:13th, 1986: 6th, 1990: 10th, 1993: 8th, 1995: 14th, 1997: 5th, 2001: 11th, 2003: 7th, 2005: 15th, 2007: 8th, 2011: 6th, 2013: 12th, 2015: 11th, 2017: 14th, 2019: 11th
Group at Egypt 2021: Group F (Portugal, Algeria, Iceland, Morocco)