Just after Iceland’s shock 2-1 win over England in the Euro 2016 Round of 16, joint head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson said he was “drawing inspiration from Leicester City”.
The comparison is quite apt as both teams achieved something they never had before. Let’s look at why many will remember 2016 as the year when the impossible came true…
Before the start of the 2015-16 season, Leicester City were tipped for relegation. At 5000-1 to win the Premier League, no-one gave them a chance. Readers who like to keep track of our predictions may point out that we were no different in this respect.
However, the world of football was in for a treat. Leicester City’s entire first team cost £53 million; this is less than Kevin De Bruyne alone. Yet Leicester topped the table at Christmas 2015 after a number of stunning displays.
At this point, striker Jamie Vardy had already entered the record books having scored in 11 straight games. This was just part of his own rags-to-riches story – a true fairy tale that is set to become the subject of a Hollywood film.
Still, no-one gave the Foxes a chance of retaining their place at the top by the end of the season. Yet they did just that, and were crowned Premier League Champions with 81 points. And just to prove this wasn’t a fluke, they came 10 points clear of closest rivals Arsenal!
Iceland is a country with a population of just 330,000 – the same as the city of Leicester! Yet Iceland had solid displays in the Group Stage of Euro 2016, during which they managed to neuter Ronaldo in their 1-1 match against Portugal.
The biggest shock of all came in the Round of 16, when they beat England 2-1 to move into the quarter-final against France. While they lost 5-2 to the hosts and eventual finalists France, it would do Iceland a disservice to understate the scale of their achievement.
Iceland had no big names and a number of part-timers in their squad, and had never qualified for a major tournament in their history.
Yet they managed to overcome an England side full of big name, highly-paid Premier League stars. By contrast, Hallgrimsson splits his time between managing the national team and working as a dentist.
The stories of Leicester and Iceland are the kind fairy tales that come around once every other lifetime. In an era of big money signings and huge commercial appeal, it is now clear that in sport anything is possible. Both teams were very effective from a defensive point of view and often proved lethal on the counter-attack.
Yet they achieved the impossible for similar reasons: their ‘never say die’ attitude and incredible team spirit.
Leicester to win this season's Premier League title odds are nowhere near the 5,000/1they were at this stage last season. They're 28/1 with bet365 to win the Premier League title or perhaps more interestingly 16/1 with Betfred to get relegated.