A heavy defeat but Iceland have been a ray of sunshine this summer

Their fans and players have been one of the stories of the tournament


Iceland's players applauds supporters at the end of the Euro 2016 quarterfinal soccer match between France and Iceland, at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, France, Sunday, July 3, 2016. France won 5-2. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Iceland might have been losing 4-0 after 45 minutes against France but the second half said a lot about their character.

They came back out at the Stade de France against the hosts and Euro 2016 semi-finalists and won that second half 2-1 - albeit with Les Bleus already cruising - when they could have caved.

There is very little need for a recap given that the facts are all pretty clear to us.

Iceland's population of just over 300,000 (a full 10% of whom were following their team passionately around France this summer) and their sparse football history prior to the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign has made the last two years as remarkable a football story as you could think of - and that's saying something in a season when Leicester won the Premier League title.

Beating the Netherlands home and away in qualifying bore the hallmarks of a good team but no one could be prepared for what Iceland have achieved.

At the first time of asking, they have finished among the best eight sides in one of the biggest tournaments around. 

Iceland fans applaud their side after the final whistle Picture by: Mike Egerton / EMPICS Sport

It's not just the results but the stories that make these footballing journeys all the more enjoyable for neutrals around the continent. We had our own journey in 1990 and 26 years on, the magic hasn't worn away.

From Iceland holding Portugal (and drawing bitter post-match frustration from Cristiano Ronaldo) to the beautiful primal scream of commentator Gudmundur Benediktsson as he soundtracked his nation's winner against Austria, enough stories had come from the group stage already.

But beating England in the last-16 was just something else. It was all the more special as most Icelandic people support an English side as Trapped actor Olafur Darri Olafsson told us.

And all the more special when you consider the disparity in reputation between the Icelandic players as individuals and the group of players they defeated.

That was an achievement on the pitch but they also caught the eye and ear off it.

Their fans deserve a mention, having been a blue wall of noise at every Iceland match, with the clapping "Huh" chant one of the things we will store into the memory bank from the summer of 2016.

In a few words, Iceland and their fans have been a ray of sunshine this summer and that in one way makes the move to a 24-team tournament all the more apt.

Þakka þér fyrir