Scott Robson continues his epic Champions League qualifying saga. Whatever will become of our brave Icelandic heroes? Only one way to find out!
The Champions League is off and running. You know that, don’t you?
So I decided, in a typically leftfield move, to follow the qualifying rounds and pick a team to follow before the final qualifying round and up until when NUFC joins the draw in late August.
I know you all can’t hide your excitement at this. I know, I can tell.
In case you’re not up to speed, our team for the first qualifying round was Breidablik of Iceland.
They were victorious in the mini tournament in the random town in North West Iceland, which was between the teams with the worst ratings in European Football.
Teams from San Marino and Andorra were the first to rule themselves out of being our first European opponents in a decade, by getting ruthlessly hammered by Breidablik and the Montenegro side Podgorica. The last two sides met In the final and, again, it was a one-sided affair, which ended 5-0 to the Icelanders.
That was worth almost £200,000 to the side from Kopavogur, which is just South of Reykjavik, who are currently lying in third in the Icelandic League.
This meant a different challenge for them and a tie against Ireland’s Shamrock Rovers. Shamrock look well set to win the League of Ireland again and, after last year’s near miss to qualify for the Europa group stage, they were firm favourites to reach the second qualifying round.
It really didn’t turn out that way, however.
Breidablik travelled first to Tallaght Park and produced a perfect European away performance, deservedly winning 1-0.
Serbian born Iceland international Damir Muminovic whipped in a long range 31st minute goal and, despite huffing and puffing, Shamrock never really looked like overturning that, a massive disappointment for the impressive crowd of 7,000.
That meant it needed something really special from Shamrock in the second leg.
By half time, the tie was stone dead.
Jason Svathorson and Hoskulder Gunnlaugsson, who already has four in this year’s competition, both scored, but then you already knew that, didn’t you?Graham Burke did manage to get a reply after an intervention from VAR, but Shamrock were surprisingly well beaten and now enter the Europa League qualifiers.
A quarter of a million pounds is now winging its way to Iceland. Let’s hope they have better financial advisers than the ones they had a decade ago.
Next up for our Icelandic heroes was a really big one for them.
Copenhagen were one of a few big guns who had to enter at the second qualifying stage, the likes of them, Panathinaikos (European Cup finalists), and Galatasaray (UEFA Cup and Super Cup winners) who were thrown in with the lower ranked sides who had made it this far.
Breidablik were at home first, and the onus was on keeping it tight against a side who are noted to be free scoring. That ‘onus’ lasted seconds as, within a minute, Jordan Larsson (son of Henrik) put Copenhagen ahead. The Icelanders stuck at it though and caused some problems, before a killer second after 32 minutes from Rasmus Jensen sort of killed the tie.
The gulf In class showed in the second half and it could have been a lot more.
Fast forward a week in Copenhagen and what a night that was. Breidablik needed an early goal, and sensationally they got it: Jason Svanporsson volleying in a great finish as it dropped from the air. Game on!
Then Copenhagen woke up in unbelievable style . They equalised through Diogo Goncalves on 33 minutes, led a minute later through Elias Achouri, and on 37 minutes it was 3-1 through Larsson. Right at half time it was 4-1 and straight after it was 5-1.
Four goals in 14 minutes. The Icelanders were melting in the heat.
They did pull one back through Steindorsson immediately, but the sixth swiftly came and, like the fourth and fifth goals, it was a compatriot who killed Breidablik off. Orri Steinn Oskarsson completed a twenty-minute hat trick, and he looked very useful indeed.
Fittingly the last word was with Breidablik who made it 6-3, with the hero of the earlier rounds, Gunnlaugsson, scoring a consolation. It ended 6-3 on the night, 8-3 on aggregate.
Breidablik can hold their heads up high as it was a great run they went on. They also made some cash.
Galatasaray, Panathinaikos, Dinamo Zagreb, and Servette (who beat Genk and now play Rangers) all went through, but the story of the Champions League so far is by Faroe Islands side Klaksvik.
They stunned Hungarian giants Ferencvaros in the last round with a 3-0 away win after a goalless first leg in the North Atlantic. It was a jaw-dropping, pools-coupon-busting result in Budapest, and in the second qualifying round they then overcame Sweden’s BK Hacken on penalties to move into the third qualifying round, alongside the likes of Marseille and PSV.
What a story. They now play the Danes Molde FK, and that group spot is within sight.
I’m quite tempted to follow old Klaksvik, but them’s not the rules, and all eyes now are on Copenhagen who have a tough one against Sparta Prague.
Want one more European anecdote? Of course you do.
It was hot in Europe wasn’t it ? Well, spare a thought for Finland’s FC Honka. Great name, but used to the cold, as you would expect.
They were given a nice test in Kazakhstan. At kick off time in their Europa League game it was 35 degrees at 9pm local time. A lot of red faces ensued and they lost 2-1.
That in one handy nutshell sums up the madness of the early rounds of the European competitions. It’s mint, trust me.