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How Iceland made Swedes 'proud to be Nordic'

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How Iceland made Swedes 'proud to be Nordic'
Fans react in Reykjavic after Iceland defeat England. Photo: Brynjar Gunnarsson
12:12 CEST+02:00
Last Sunday Iceland defeated England to qualify for the quarter-finals of Euro 2016. Victory was miraculous for Icelandic supporters, but Swedes are feeling the magic too, writes contributor Marie Zafimehy.

After an underwhelming exit at the group stage of the tournament, Swedish supporters had to find another team to cheer on. And who better than their Nordic mates from Iceland?

"The perfect underdogs!"

Iceland pulled off what was by far the tournament's biggest shock by beating England 2-1 in Lyon, much to the amazement of even their own fans. 

“I did not really expect that," admits Mikael Dubik, an Icelandic student in Uppsala. "We're a small country, right?” 

Tom Gandeborn, a Swede, was not so surprised. Although he grew up in England, he decided to support Iceland against England because “they deserved to win”.

“England always have a lot of promise and typically fall short”, he adds.

Swedish fan Adam Kinwall hailed Iceland as "the perfect underdogs”. 

After Sweden's early flight home, the 22-year-old decided they were his team. And he's not alone. 

Tom Gandeborn reckons Iceland are the Leicester of the Euros, "the smallest team that people would typically write off but punch far above their weight”. Leicester of course won the league in England this year. Nobody believed that was possible. 

The Nordic sense of community

Adam Kinwall says supporting Iceland is natural. “It's the only Nordic country left in the tournament, it's a matter of Nordic community”, he explains.

“And we don't have any rivalry with Iceland, it's like cheering for our cousins,” he jokes, before adding: “But I wouldn't have supported Denmark if they were the only ones left in the tournament”.

“As both the sole remaining Nordic team in the Euros and the underdogs, they deserve to win”, says Tom Gandeborn, who right after the game posted on Facebook: “Iceland you make me proud to be Nordic”.

But Mikael Dubik has another theory as to why Swedes are cheering for Iceland. “It's probably because of the coach”, he says. Iceland's Swedish coach Lars Lagerbäck led his home nation to a string of international tournaments during his time at the helm. Also, “seven Icelandic players play in the Swedish professional league,” says Kinwall.

Adam Kinwall/Photo: Private

Adam Kinwall/Photo: private

Icelandic comfort

Swedish fan weren't too surprised to see their own team crash out in the first round of the tournament. “We did not have real high expectations”, admits Kinwall.

Tom Gandeborn can't hide his disappointment but is not surprised either: “I believe that Iceland had the desire to win whereas Sweden had no such appetite”.

But both are now glad to be supporting a country whose commentator went ballistic at the end of the England game. (It has to be seen to be believed.) 

“Their team and fans are fantastic, true Vikings! Who doesn't want to cheer for Iceland?” asks Kinwall. The players are “really passionate about playing, they won the hearts and minds of all the people”.

Mikael Dubik is confident his national team can pull off another surprise against France this weekend. “After watching the game on Sunday I think they are a pretty strong team and they know what they're doing, so I think they will win”.

Mikael Dúbik/Photo: Private

Mikael Dubik/Photo: private

Adam Kinwall isn't so sure. “Iceland is very good as a team but not really in term of individual players,” he says. “I hope they can win but they might be a bit nervous”.

Coming up against the host nation France might be a little intimidating, but Tom Gandeborn is not ruling Iceland out. “I feel that the French have not been as convincing as they could have been during the previous matches and I do not think necessarily that the French are playing with a winning team this year”.

The bookmakers make France massive favourites to progress to the semi-finals. But wouldn't it be nice to hear the now-famous commentator do this again? 

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