Gudmundsson: Generational change for Iceland 

25 Jan. 2021

Gudmundsson: Generational change for Iceland 

Iceland coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson spoke to about getting the mixture right between youth and experience, planning the future and his love for Bahrain. What is your overall assessment of your team at Egypt 2021? You had tight games against Portugal, Switzerland, France and, finally, Norway, losing them by two goals each.

Gudmundur Gudmundsson: I want to thank my team for a fantastic performance [against Norway]. I am very proud of them and how they played. 

We were here without many; many players and I could not use all the team we could almost not change any players anymore because they were injured. This has been a very, very tough tournament for us and in the end, we are missing a lot of key players, but we are moving forward with a young team.

I think the future for us is bright. We are getting more and more experience, we are getting closer to the good teams as well, like France and like Norway.

We have been playing a fantastic defence all the tournament and we have been developing this defence for almost two years and we are getting better and better. How much did you miss your players here in Egypt? You even had injuries while here, like Viggo Kristjansson who was missing for your final match and who has been so important in your team.

Gudmundur Gudmundsson: He has a strained ankle; it looks better than we thought (originally) he will be away for at least four weeks.

We are missing a lot of key players, I am talking about Aron Palmarsson, Janus Dadi Smarason who is playing for us as a playmaker and (Alexander) Petersson who had a very bad head injury. And now we were missing also Elvar Jonsson and our right wing and captain Arnor Gunnarsson, so we are down to not being able to change much today. 

Therefore, I am extremely proud of my team. We are fighting with our heart, giving everything, we have into the game and I’m really, really happy to see that. In a strange way, despite all these injuries, it actually highlights the depth you have in Iceland now, once the injuries are cleared?

Gudmundur Gudmundsson: I can explain to you what we are doing, what we have been doing the last two years. We are changing the generation of the team.

We are doing it to get help from the experienced players, but our focus is to build up a new team.

For instance, the middle block in the defence, the average age is only 23 years old. The playmaker position, when we have everyone there, the average age is about 22 years, right back is 24 years.

So, we are working very focussed to move in the next generation. The thing is in this sport you need to do it and you need to play, some say, about 50 games. We are not there yet. We have played with this team in three tournaments and not all of the (players in Egypt) have played, they’ve maybe played 20 games. We need 50. We also need to have more respect from the referees. 

Sometimes, for a young team, you play against France, you play against Norway, there is sometimes an advantage, that is something we have to will take time. There is a lot of interesting things going on for our team and we have a bright future. You have a link with Bahrain, who qualified for the main round here at Egypt 2021 for the first time. Are you involved with them still?

Gudmundur Gudmundsson: Yes, I am still in contact with Bahrain. They have a place in my heart. I experienced a very, very interesting time with them, taking part in building up the team and taking the team forward. Then Aron came and did a fantastic job also. They then decided to take Halldor (Sigfusson) as the third Icelander, because they want to try and keep the same line to play. They have a big place in my heart, and I follow them very closely. As the previous Bahrain youth and junior coach, Halldor put some of those players in his Egypt 2021 squad. Why is it important for Bahrain to have this model?

Gudmundur Gudmundsson: For us, in Iceland now, this has been my vision to take this new generation, but we have been doing it as fast as we can, but not too fast, in my opinion, because we have qualified for all the big tournaments in this period. 

We have been able to qualify for the main round in all championships in this period too, 2019 (World Championship), 2020 (European Championship) and here in 2021. So, we’re always taking steps to be better.

For Bahrain, of course, they have not so many players but every player they have is so important. We have to try and bring in new players but also use the experience of the good players they have had in the last few years.