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England Leaves EUROpe

It’s official: Iceland’s most famous export is no longer the hockey squad from D2: The Mighty Ducks.

France is hosting the Euro 2016 tournament, which has seen many of the power teams advance through the group stage and to the single-game elimination rounds (Germany, Italy, France, Portugal). Keep in mind though, this tournament, during the past 12 years, has seen small nations rise to super human levels. Greece, defying all odds and constructs of reality, won Euro 2004 by defeating Portugal 1-nil.

It’s important not to make a direct comparison (yet), but Iceland continues to make a case in Euro 2016 that’s increasingly morphing into something genuinely mind-boggling.

So mind-boggling that its soccer announcer, Gudmundur Benediktsson, can barely believe what he’s seeing. Last Wednesday, Iceland upset Austria on a stunning last minute goal. Mr. Benediktsson had a mildly excited reaction. Yesterday, Iceland (pop. 330,000) was leading England (pop. 53,000,000) 2-1 in the last minute of extra time.

How can you watch and listen to him and not love the beautiful game?

Barring a surprise tournament entrance by Gordon Bombay: The Minnesota Miracle Man, the now famous Icelandic commentator may not be chilling out anytime soon.

P.S. Do you think Brits are more distressed over leaving the EU or being upset by Iceland? The answer may be more surprising than England losing to, well, you know…

P.P.S. Two unbelievably dramatic departures in less than a week. Is it time to call the U.K. the new Cleveland?

The Brexit.

The Björking.

P.P.P.S. The MVP of Euro 2016 thus far: Gudmundur Benediktsson.

The Icing on the Cake

Soccer has the power to cast other-worldly spells on people.

For non-soccer fans, it can be difficult to understand why scoring a single goal warrants a celebration normally reserved for a nation’s revolution. This passion, intensity and patience are qualities that make the beautiful game special. Without diving into a comprehensive analysis of soccer, this sport has a connection to the psychology of chess. In soccer, like chess, the back-and-forth dynamic enhances the match and deepens the resolve and strategy of both competitors. This is why, after hours of playing without a major breakthrough, that one move or goal validates every previous positive and negative act.

And that goal or checkmate represents so much more than the game alone. The sports we enjoy tend to reflect our personalities and mentalities towards life. In the Euro 2016 match between Iceland and Austria, the men in blue pulled-off a spectacular goal at the very end that sent the Austrians back to, well, Austria. However, the goal was only the second best part of this sequence.

Do you think soccer is important to this Icelandic announcer?

That’s beautiful.

Déjà Vu’s Comforting Goal

Iceland 1 – Netherlands nil.

When will this nightmare end?

The shocking struggles of the Oranje, following a third place finish at last year’s World Cup with a strikingly similar squad, leaves fans of this small, yet immensely talented soccer nation in a sustained state of disbelief. With just three games remaining in the qualifying stage of the UEFA Euro 2016, the Dutch are in third place with 10 points, 6 shy of the Czech Republic and 8 short of football’s current Cinderella: Iceland.

Math is increasingly becoming the 12th eligible player against the Netherlands.

In Danny Blind’s first game as the new Dutch manager, he faced an uphill battle with an injury to his new captain Arjen Robben and a red card from defender Bruno Martins Indi in the first half and a penalty for Iceland minutes into the second half. It’s difficult to render a legitimate verdict against Blind at this point. He deserves time and a healthy roster to make a remarkable (and necessary) comeback for his home country in order to plan the coveted business trip to France for UEFA Euro 2016.

However, not substituting in Robin van Persie in the second half when they needed a goal? That’s one question that Mr. Blind needs to answer.

As a loyal Dutch fan for many, many years now, the Netherlands’ second group loss to Iceland was unthinkable. They have the talent, a new coach’s perspective and home filed advantage. Surely, a win was coming.

Nope.

It was a little more than year ago when the Dutch shocked Spain and the world in the best way imaginable. Spain’s reign at the top of world soccer was officially over and they knew it. Here’s a much-needed throwback this Thursday to the 2014 World Cup’s thrilling opening match.

I still believe: Hup Holland Hup.

3-2-1…

Hamingjusamur Nýtt Ár!
(“Happy New Year!” in Icelandic)

The best part about tonight is how the entire world celebrates New Year’s Eve. If there was ever a day to literally hang out in Space, it would be tonight/today. The colors seen in the night sky will represent every color in that gigantic Crayola crayon box from our elementary school days.

“Was that firework orange with twirling turquoise?”

It’s a continuous stream of fireworks, light shows, boisterous music, confetti, happiness, kissing, goofy hats and crowds of people joyously dancing in the streets, homes and in hotel lobbies that’s a spectacular display of hope and the infinitely possible. Welcoming in the new year is a universal truth that’s proven in every language in every corner of the globe. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to fully report on each city’s unique festivities. Fortunately though, there are plenty of places to choose from. As it’s become commonplace, Bing posts a picture each day that dazzles the eye. Today was no exception.

When my family went to Iceland, we were there for New Year’s! Luckily, there’s a photo of what it would be like to be on the pristine glacial lake of Jökulsárlón, Iceland, which is a better sight than the much-hyped, expansive collection of celebratory bonfires around Reykjavík we were told about…

 

(© Norbert Eisele-Hein/Aurora Photos)

(© Norbert Eisele-Hein/Aurora Photos)

Here’s to a Perfectly Picturesque 2015!