- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

Iceland has never played in a major tournament before, but more established teams would be wise not to underestimate the newcomer at the European Championship.

Just ask the Netherlands.

Iceland stunned the Dutch twice in an impressive qualifying campaign that also included wins over the Czech Republic and Turkey to reach the Euros for the first time. It is the culmination of the team’s rapid improvement under Swedish coach Lars Lagerback, who narrowly failed to take Iceland to the 2014 World Cup as the team lost in a playoff to Croatia.

Lagerback has set Iceland up to be defensively solid, allowing just six goals in 10 qualifiers, with players like Swansea midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson providing the creative spark going forward.

While Iceland isn’t expected to advance very far in France, it’s also a team that few of the favorites would like to be drawn against in the group stage. When it comes to staging upsets, Iceland has already shown it is more than capable of bringing down some of the best.



Here is a look at Iceland’s top three players and its coach, Lagerback.

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GYLFI SIGURDSSON

Sigurdsson led Iceland with six goals and three assists in 10 qualifiers and the midfielder is at the heart of most of the team’s attacks. He has the vision and passing skills to pick teams apart, while also providing a scoring threat from distance. In a team that emphasizes the collective, Sigurdsson is the standout talent that must provide goals for the team to have a chance to make a mark in France.

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ARON GUNNARSSON

Iceland’s captain, Gunnarsson anchors the team’s midfield and provides on-field leadership through his determination and intensity. While he has struggled to get playing time for Cardiff this season, Gunnarsson is exactly the type of blue-collar player that Lagerback prizes highly and his place in Iceland’s starting lineup is all but assured.

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KOLBEINN SIGTHORSSON

Sigthorsson has struggled to make an impact for French club Nantes this season but the striker has scored 18 goals in 30 internationals - including the winning goal against the Czechs in a crucial qualifier in June. He is expected to lead the line for Iceland at the Euros, and will be the player that Sigurdsson tries to find with many of his passes.

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COACH: LARS LAGERBACK

While Iceland is a newcomer at the Euros, its coach is one of the most experienced at the tournament. Lagerback helped lead Sweden to five consecutive championships between 2000 and 2008 and then coached Nigeria at the 2010 World Cup. However, leading Iceland to the Euros may rank as his greatest achievement yet. The stoic Swede is known for managing teams that are difficult to beat but rarely spectacular to watch.

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