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Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Not many football clubs had such an up-and-down existence as Northern Irish club Newry City FC, which was founded in 1918 (and entered senior football in 1923) and was dissolved in late 2012 having just failed to gain promotion to the then IFA Premiership. Out of the ashes of the old club came Newry City AFC, which was founded on 7/3/13 and joined the regional Mid-Ulster Football League at Intermediate B level. Their first season, 2013-14, was a success, whith the club gaining promotion to the Intermediate A division at the first time of asking.

However, last season was one which did not go the club's way as they finished fifth in the fourth level of Northern Irish football. In direct contrast, the 2015-16 season has begun swimmingly for manager Darren Mullen's men with the team having won all of their first five matches to sit joint top with Banbridge Rangers, whom they hosted at Newry Showgrounds on 17/10/15.

City were favourites to pick up the three points from this encounter and thus extend their winning run, but Banbridge Rangers kicked off and went straight into attacking mode, with Jonathon Porter embarking on a run down the right-hand side; Porter's dangerous cross almost reached Andy Mallon at the far end of the penalty-area, but City defender Thomas McCann cleared the ball at the second attempt. Mattie Dodds then had a long-range effort for the visitors which was charged down by Neil Mullen. 

 Newry City AFC : Banbridge Rangers, 17/10/15

This was followed on seven minutes by another run, this time from William Frazer down the left, and home defender Conor McCaul amost diverted Frazer's cross into his own net with goalkeeper Peter Murphy beaten, but to the relief of one and all in the City camp, the ball eventually went behind for a Rangers corner. From the corner, Rangers defender Chris Chambers climbed highest and headed the ball goalwards, only for McCann to head the ball off the line.

Rangers had certainly dominated the first ten minutes with Porter looking sharp in the forward line, but Newry defenders McCaul and captain McMahon were proving resolute and their partnership was to prove a defining feature of the remaining eighty minutes. The following ten minutes were as forgettable as the first ten were exciting, but the signs were there that Newry City were finally upping their game.

James Walker almost found a way through the Banbridge defence after twenty minutes when he was on the receiving end of a high ball from midfield, but after controlling the ball with his chest, he was tackled by Jeff Brady whose excellent tackle swept the ball away from immediate danger and out for a corner-kick. A corner five minutes later from Stephen McCabe caught everyone out as it travelled along the visitors' goal-line and came back off the post; it came to McCaul, but he lost his footing and the ball stuck between his legs as he lined himself up to shoot, and he scooped the ball wide.

As the game reached the half-hour mark, alarm suddenly spread amongst the home support as a pass intended for Neil Mullen was woefully underhit and was intercepted by Porter, who spotted that Murphy was well off his line and lofted the ball over the stranded 'keeper from some 20 yards out. There was doubtless relief amongst the City faithful as the ball clipped the top of the crossbar and went behind for a goal-kick. Seconds later, Jeff Cousins received the ball on the left-hand side and he, too, attempted to chip Murphy, but his shot floated into the City 'keeper's hands. It was the first actual save that either goalkeeper had had to make, and that after 31 minutes.

Newry City pose for the camera before their game against Banbridge Rangers

Murphy was also involved in another scare in defence shortly afterwards, when he dropped a cross just by the penalty-spot with two Rangers players in close proximity, but the ball, which had fallen behind him, was hurriedly cleared.

In a somewhat bizarre turn of events going into the last five minutes of the first half, three Banbridge players went to ground within moments of each other, one with an injury, and the others with what seemed to be cramp. Fortunately, all three recovered and were fit to continue. It was just as well, as the home team upped the ante.

McCabe was making some dangerous runs down the left, whilst McCaul got on the end of a good free-kick from the right which caused a scramble in the visitors' box, but Steven Teggart got back just in time to clear the ball. Walker cleverly hooked a ball over team-mate Decky Carville's shoulder with a minute left, but Carville only just failed to connect; in injury-time, McCann tried his luck with a shot from distance which was well blocked by Colin Chambers.

It was scoreless at the break, but there were signs that Newry City had the beating of their visitors, but the final ball often didn't match the quality of the rest of the move, or was miscontrolled. At the back, Mc Mahon and McCaul were looking very comfortable indeed, whilst, going forward, Walker and McCabe both had an impressive first half. 

Banbridge Rangers, meanwhile - above all Porter and Mattie Dodds - had looked dangerous on the counter-attack. Scott Ward was leaving his mark - both literally and metaphorically - on the home side's midfield, but despite his scorched-earth policy, which was not always appreciated by Newry players and supporters alike, was head and shoulders above the rest of his team in the first half. 

There was little to separate both sides in the first ten minutes of the second half, but there was the bizarre sight of the Banbridge linesman spending much of that time just inside the Newry City half, seemingly unnoticed by the referee. However, the match official eventually realised that he was in charge of a football match and finally wrote Scott Ward's name in his little black book; not for yet another haphazard challenge, but for dissent.

Second-half action from Newry City : Banbridge Rangers

Ward's team-mate Teggart broke up a promising move from City pairing McCabe and Seán McMullan inside his own penalty-area with a timely interception, and not long after, City were caught on the counter-attack by a ball through to Jeff Brady, who blazed his shot high and wide. James Walker and Decky Carville had crafted the makings of a chance for themselves just shy of the hour-mark, but the latter dallied slightly, just enough for Scott Ward to clear the Banbridge lines with a timely sliding-tackle on the edge of the away team's area.

The referee made a decision on the hour which both baffled and incensed the home support in equal measure when he decided that McMullan, having been put clear of the Banbridge defence some 40 yards from Ivan Blevins' goal thanks to a through ball from one of his defenders, had strayed offside. An odd decision, indeed; McMullan not only appeared (at worst) level with the Rangers defence when the ball was played, but the referee was at least five seconds and twenty yards behind play when he called McMullan offside.

The incident seemed to give City more impetus, and a high ball across the Banbridge area reached McCann, who miscued his volley; Chris Chambers chested the ball back to Blevins in the Banbridge goal, but he almost put the ball through his own goal only for Blevins to save at full stretch. With 62 minutes on the clock, this was the first serious save that either goalkeeper had to make, but more would follow.

Five minutes later, after being on the end of a pass from the rampaging McCabe, McCann crossed into the Banbridge penalty-area, and his aerial pass was headed on by McMullan to Carville, who headed the ball goalwards eight yards out from the visitors' goal, and his header would have paid dividends only for an acrobatic save from Blevins, who clawed the ball away to his right.

A spate of yellow cards then followed, with Brady being booked for fouling McCabe in the build-up to McMullan's effort, and Walker and Porter receiving theirs seconds later after a verbal tête-à-tête.

With under twenty minutes left, Newry City fashioned another chance to put themselves in front: McCabe, with assistance from Chris McMahon, delivered a cross which found the head of McMullan, who in turn flicked the ball on to Carville, who was in splendid solitude ten yards from goal and who let go a stinging half-volley, but shot straight at Blevins. McMullan later headed over himself after a good ball in from Walker on the right.

The home side were finding more and more space down the right, and almost broke the deadlock in the 80th minute after a quick interchange between McMullan and Timmy Grant at a corner-kick; Mc Mullan sent in a low cross which evaded everyone in the Banbridge defence, and the onrushing Decky Carville, who ghosted in and only just failed to connect with the ball as the away team stood ball-watching. 

Walker fired a volley high and wide after some head-tennis at the edge of the penalty-area; it was to prove his last significant contribution to the game as he was replaced with five minutes to go by Mark Lowry, who immediately took up residency on the right and sent in a couple of decent crosses within moments of entering the fray. 

 Newry City players celebrate after Timmy Grant's winner against Banbridge Rangers

Banbridge were by this stage grimly holding on, but hopes of heading home with a clean-sheet were dashed in the 80th minute, when Niall Crilly raced up the right, as he had been doing for much of the game, breezed past substitute Danny McKinstry and slung in a low cross which bounced before sitting up nicely for Timmy Grant at the far side of the area, who stroked the ball home from five yards, to the frustration of the Rangers and their sizeable contingent of fans, but to the joy and relief of the home support.

Newry City defended en masse as Rangers threw everything at them in injury-time, but the closest the visitors came to scoring was via Chris Chambers' late effort which was deflected behind for a corner, and the home side were able to celebrate a hard-fought victory which moved them three points clear at the top of the Mid-Ulster League Intermediate A Division and a step closer to Irish League status.

NEWRY CITY: 1 Peter MURPHY, 2 Niall CRILLY (12 Graeme EDGAR), 3 Chris McMAHON (C), 4 Conor McCAUL, 5 Neil MULLEN, 6 Thomas McCANN, 7 James WALKER (16 Mark LOWRY), 8 Decky CARVILLE, 9 Seán McMULLAN, 10 Timmy GRANT, 11 Stephen McCABE

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 14 Keith JOHNSTON, 15 Conor SLOAN, 17 Paddy MOONEY

BANBRIDGE RANGERS: 1 Ivan BLEVINS, 2 Ryan GREGG, 3 William FRAZER, 4 Steven TEGGART, 5 Chris CHAMBERS, 6 Colin COUSINS, 7 Jeff BRADY, 8 Scott WARD, 9 Jonathon PORTER, 10 Mattie DODDS (14 Jamie CROOKS), 11 Andy MALLON (12 Danny McKINSTRY) 

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 15 Bradley HUGHES, 16 Robbie BAIRD 

POSTSCRIPT: Newry City's unbeaten run in the Mid-Ulster League Intermediate A continues; after winning eight and drawing one of their nine league matches so far this season, they currently sit top of the table with 25 points and a six-point cushion on nearest rivals Valley Rangers and Hanover. Taking all competitions into account, Newry City have lost just once so far this season, suffering a 2:1 defeat against Crumlin Star in the second round of the Irish Cup back in October.

Newry City's most recent fixture took place on 5/12/15, when they took on Camlough Rovers in the semi-final of the Premier Cup and won 2:0. (City defeated Banbridge Rangers in their return league fixture a week earlier by 5 goals to 3.) The club's supporters now have a cup final on 28/12/15 to look forward to, when they take on Fivemiletown United, currently in eleventh place in Intermediate A, in the final of the Premier Cup. The game is scheduled to take place at Crystal Park, home of NIFL Championship 2 side Banbridge Town with an 11:30 kick-off.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Due to the occasionally forgetful nature of your correspondent, the above report is more than a little late in being written; many thanks to Laura and Gerry Hillen for rescuing the situation; thanks, too, to Gary Wilson, Jim Campbell and all at Newry City AFC. There will be more on the club's travails in due course, and a history of sorts on Newry Town/Newry City.

Friday, October 23, 2015


In late May, the Danish daily newspaper Politiken published an article covering the possibility of Greenlandic football's governing body, the Grønlands Boldspil-Union (GBU) becoming a member of UEFA with the help of the Danish FA, or Dansk Boldspil-Union (DBU). Shortly after the article was published, in which it was revealed that both associations intended to pursue membership for the GBU via a road-map, Pat's Football Blog attempted to obtain the viewpoints of both the GBU and the DBU. Unfortunately, no response was forthcoming from the GBU, but former DBU president Allan Hansen was prepared to provide his thoughts on the subject, and did so in June.

Hansen, who was born in 1949, was himself an ex-footballer at amateur level, and refereed for six years until the mid-1980s. His attention then turned to football administration, and, after a period serving as president of the Fyns Boldspil-Union (the regional FA covering Fyn Island and a number of smaller neighbouring islands), he was elected president of the DBU in 2002. He is currently a member of UEFA's executive committee, a role which he himself describes as something which he does on an "advisory basis, an ambassador opening the doors to FIFA/UEFA/EU and the Danish Government and various foundations."

He was asked about the partnership between the GBU and DBU, and also about the possibility of financial assistance from FIFA for non-member associations. He explained that the GBU could only receive assistance via the DBU, which represents the football community in Denmark, Greenland's mother country, and gave the example of the now famous mini-football pitch in Qaqortoq.

"In my time as President of the Danish FA, from 2002-2014, we established a formalized means of cooperation between the Danish FA and the Greenlandic FA based on a collaboration agreement about education on all levels. As you know and as John Thorsen [GBU chairman] has expressed, the current conditions to play football in Greenland are very poor, therefore with an eye to creating better conditions for the GBU to develop football in Greenland we for years tried to help them to get the first artificial grass pitch and in 2009 the work succeeded.

"FIFA cannot grant financial services or any other services to a non-member and therefore the money (USD400000) for a pitch was granted to the Danish FA via FIFA's Goal programme and then the Danish FA together with the Greenlandic FA constructed the pitch in Qaqortoq in the southern part of Greenland. As well GBU as DBU hoped this pitch would have a rub-off effect on the construction of artificial grass pitches in Greenland, but such deals take time in Greenland; we still hope more artifical pitches will be constructed in Greenland - that will help to further develop Greenlandic football.

"From 2005 - 2012 I was a member of FIFA's Associations Committee and based on discussions in the committee FIFA in 2010 set up a working group headed by Geoffrey Thompson, FIFA Vice-President and Chairman of the Associations Committee at that time, to look at issues faced by small nations and territories not currently recognized internationally, with an eye to help develop football in non-member countries - and even though Greenland was not directly a part of that work, the FIFA Football Festivals in Greenland are a by-product of the working groups recommendations..Every summer, FIFA has been running the so-called "FIFA Football Festivals" in different cities in Greenland for boys and girls aged 6-12 to help develop grassroots football in Greenland.

"FIFA can’t provide financial services to non-member associations -that was one of the issues the working group headed by Geoffrey Thompson reviewed and representatives from the working group visited among others Tuvalu, Sint Maarten and Jersey. I’m no longer a member of the FIFA Associations Committee and I have no knowledge of the current status, but I think there is a genuine recognition and understanding of the international void these associations find themselves in.
Hansen was also asked as to the criteria needed for a national football association to become a UEFA and/or FIFA member, and the possibilty of not only the GBU, but also those associations governing football in, for example, Palau, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia obtaining FIFA membership.  "The challenge today is that as well the statutes of FIFA as UEFA stipulate that membership of FIFA/UEFA is only open to national associations based in a country which is recognized by the United Nations as an independent state - the same is valid in the IOC.

"The Faroe Islands FA who, in a way, are in the same situation as Greenland, was already a member of FIFA and UEFA when the current rule for membership was approved and Gibraltar who become a member of UEFA in 2013 achieved membership because Gibraltar already applied for membership in 1997 (FIFA) and in 1999 (UEFA) and therefore by order of CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport] UEFA gave them a road-map that led to full membership status.

"The fact is that FIFA/UEFA today have members who are not recognized by United Nations and England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are recognized collectively under "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" but all members of FIFA and UEFA. That left Greenland (and other similar countries) in a gap which separates them from the international football family and that is why the Danish FA and I personally try to help the Greenlandic football to get support from both FIFA and UEFA to further develop football in Greenland.

"There are two criteria that stand in the way of admission. First and foremost "an independent state recognized by United Nations", but there are also a number of infrastructural criteria and therefore in the present situation i makes no sense to apply for membership. What the Danish FA together with the GBU are trying is to set up a road-map that over time hopefully can lead to membership. 

"My impression is that if a country fulfill all infrastructural criteria and the only thing missing is recognition of United Nations as an independent state then it will be possible to find a way - the first time round for instance by way of a partially membership status. That would also help to develop football in Greenland.

"It’s not an easy task to find solutions that can help these small associations, sports political issues tend to muddy the debate in some cases, but in the case of Greenland FIFA was successful in helping small associations and territories unable to gain recognition by FIFA so hopefully this could be recognized as a workable solution.
"Full membership for these small associations requires that some sporting and political issues must first be discussed and settled, but I believe there is a will to help developing football worldwide by the way of financial assistance to build facilities and bring the standard of football in these countries up to scratch and that could be a good help for these associations.
What about the previous attempt made by the GBU back in the late 1990s to obtain UEFA membership, and their chances of being accepted into the organisation in the near future (he also alluded to infrastructural requirements)?
"Concerning the GBU, I’m not convinced [they] officially applied for FIFA and UEFA membership at around the same time as Gibraltar. As I’m informed, the GBU in the late nineties sent a letter [requesting clarification on a number of issues] but..there were no follow-up actions.
"Therefore, in my opinion the status is still the same. Under present day conditions it does not make sense to apply for UEFA membership. The partnership agreement between DBU and GBU and a road-map for the development of Greenlandic football is necessary to pave the way for a membership in the long term.
"I can’t foretell what will happen in the future, but I have attended a meeting with UEFA, DBU and GBU and I'm convinced that the day DBU and GBU present a partnership agreement and a road-map for the development of Greenlandic football, UEFA will be ready to discuss options for supporting the development of Greenlandic football as well on football as on administrative level.
"If the infrastructure, including football facilities, hotels, airports and all criteria (organization, competitions etc.) apart from an independent state are fulfilled I believe UEFA will be ready to review a request for membership but it is the Congress who has the final decision.
"Greenlandic football is far from the European level, but they are enthusiastic and have a strong will to develop football even they work under very difficult conditions."
Discussions are ongoing between the GBU and the DBU, and the organisations signed an official partnership agreement in Nuuk on 13/10/15. There is the hope that four to six full-size artificial pitches will be laid in Greenland over the next few years, and this, together with other infrastructural improvements, will eventually bear fruit and herald the beginning of a new era in Greenlandic football.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks go to Allan Hansen for kindly providing his time and assistance, and, as ever, to Pia Schou Nielsen from the DBU for her help. Further attempts will be made to obtain the thoughts of the GBU on the road ahead.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


At the time of writing, the 2015-16 Vatican City league championship, or the Campionato Stagione Calcistica Vaticana, is well under way, with eight teams participating in this season's tournament. One well-known name is missing from this season's championship: San Pietro, champions in 2012-13 and 2013-14, have elected not to take part. Meanwhile, 2008-09 champions Gendarmeria are back after an absence of five years, and there is also a new name in the shape of Virtus 51.

There was a surprise in the very first game of the season on 12/10/15, when reigning champions Musei Vaticani lost 2:1 to the returning Gendarmeria. Games between the Associazione Società Sportiva Pietro e Paolo and Guardia are generally close, high-scoring affairs, and their tussle on 12/10/15 was no exception, with Ass. SS P&P winning by the odd goal in seven. 

The following evening, Dirtel defeated Fortitudo/Pantheon SD 4:2, whilst débutants Virtus 51 began their season with a more than creditable 1:1 with Santos.

This year's championship formula has been tweaked a little, with the first-placed team at the end of the regular season going straight into the championship final, which is scheduled to take place on 14/03/16. Before that, the second- to fifth-placed teams will be taking part in the semi-finals, with an extra semi-final/play-off between the winners of both games being used to determine the second finalist. It appears that there has been no provision made for a third-place final.

Please find below the fixture list for the 2015-16 Campionato SCV, the forty-third in the country's history.


12/10/15 19:45 Musei Vaticani 1:2 Gendarmeria (Secone; Carilli 2)
12/10/15 20:45 Ass. SS P&P 4:3 Guardia (Panella 2, C Del Nero, Rinaldin, OG; Moresco, Perera, OG)
13/10/15 19:45 Dirtel 4:2 Fortitudo 2007/Pantheon (Grecco 2, Pacenza; Cataldo, Della Porta)
13/10/15 20:45 Virtus 51 1:1 Santos (Appetecchia; Puoti)
19/10/15 19:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon : Ass. SS P&P
19/10/15 20:45 Gendarmeria : Guardia
22/10/15 19:45 Santos : Musei Vaticani
22/10/15 20:45 Dirtel : Virtus 51
26/10/15 19:45 Ass. SS P&P : Gendarmeria
26/10/15 20:45 Virtus : Guardia 
27/10/15 19:45 Dirtel : Santos
27/10/15 20:45 Musei Vaticani : Fortitudo/Pantheon
09/10/15 19:45 Gendarmeria : Dirtel
09/10/15 20:45 Guardia : Musei Vaticani
10/10/15 19:45 Santos : Ass. SS P&P
10/10/15 20:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon : Virtus 51
16/10/15 19:45 Ass. SS P&P : Dirtel
16/10/15 20:45 Guardia : Santos
17/10/15 19:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon : Gendarmeria
17/10/15 20:45 Virtus 51 : Musei Vaticani
23/11/15 19:45 Santos : Fortitudo/Pantheon
23/11/15 20:45 Dirtel : Guardia
26/11/15 19:45 Musei Vaticani : Ass. SS P&P
26/11/15 20:45 Gendarmeria : Virtus 51
30/11/15 19:45 Dirtel : Musei Vaticani
30/11/15 20:45 Guardia : Fortitudo/Pantheon
01/12/15 19:45 Dirtel : Musei Vaticani
01/12/15 20:45 Virtus 51 : Ass. SS P&P
14/12/15 19:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon
14/12/15 20:45 Guardia : Ass. SS P&P
15/12/15 19:45 Gendarmeria : Musei Vaticani
15/12/15 20:45 Santos : Virtus 51
18/01/16 19:45 Ass. SS P&P : Fortitudo/Pantheon
18/01/16 20:45 Guardia : Gendarmeria
19/01/16 19:45 Musei Vaticani : Santos
19/01/16 20:45 Virtus 51 : Dirtel
25/01/16 19:45 Gendarmeria : Ass. SS P&P
25/01/16 20:45 Guardia : Virtus 51 
26/01/16 19:45 Santos : Dirtel
26/01/16 20:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon : Musei Vaticani
01/02/16 19:45 Dirtel : Gendarmeria
01/02/16 20:45 Musei Vaticani : Guardia
02/02/16 19:45 Ass. SS P&P : Santos
02/02/16 20:45 Virtus 51 : Fortitudo/Pantheon
08/02/16 19:45 Dirtel : Ass. SS P&P
08/02/16 20:45 Santos : Guardia
09/02/16 19:45 Gendarmeria : Fortitudo/Pantheon
09/02/16 20:45 Musei Vaticani : Virtus 51


29/02/16 19:45 2nd : 5th (SF1)
29/02/16 20:45 3rd : 4th (SF2)


07/03/16 19:45 SF1 : SF2 (PO)


14/03/16 19:45 1st : PO

AUTHOR'S NOTE: As ever, thanks to the ACDV (Attività Calcistici Dipendenti Vaticani) and their representative for kindly forwarding the above information.

Monday, September 21, 2015


Iceland's match away to the Netherlands at the Amsterdam ArenA in Euro 2016 qualifying group A on 03/09/15 was an important one in all sorts of ways; for the hosts, victory was imperative if they were to keep their hopes of at least reaching the play-offs for France. For Iceland, a win would bring them one step closer to creating history.

No Icelandic team had ever qualified for the final stages of a major competition, although this one had come close just under two years ago, when they lost to Croatia in the play-offs over two legs. Going into the match, they were two points ahead of the Czech Republic, who were due to play Kazakhstan in Prague the same evening. Before kick-off, several of the 3000 Icelandic supporters who had come to Holland for the fixture - and the dozens of Icelandophiles who had come to Amsterdam to lend their support - were sceptical of their team's chances of gaining all three points, but were hopeful of watching their team come away with a draw. After all, Iceland had beaten Oranje for the very first time in eleven attempts in their 2:0 win in October last year, so a point in the return match would come in very handy in their attempt to qualify for Euro 2016.

The game itself started with the Dutch very much on the front foot, with Wesley Sneijder the focal point for much of the attacking early on, but it was Iceland's Johann Gudmundsson who had the game's first real shot on goal after seven minutes. A cross from Gylfi Sigurdsson found Gudmundsson in space five yards out from the right-hand post, but he scooped the ball back across goal and wide.

Iceland began to come more into the game after this, but Arjen Robben, Memphis Depay ("Memphis") and Wesley Sneijder all had chances in quick succession, with Robben also firing a 20-yard free-kick just wide of Hannes Halldórsson's left-hand post.

The Dutch dominated the first 25 minutes or so, but Iceland were coping well with the pressure, which was mainly coming from the flanks via Robben and Depay, whilst the visitors were mostly working through the middle, with Birkir Bjarnason working his socks off on behalf of his team.

Depay had a chance to line up a shot from the edge of the Iceland penalty-area after 27 minutes, but dithered and eventually lost the ball. Sneijder's dangerous 29th-minute cross was only just missed by both Depay and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Things then began to unravel for the hosts in the space of just a few minutes just after the half-hour mark. First the ever-dangerous (and ever injury-prone) Arjen Robben hobbled off with an ankle injury and was replaced by Luciano Narsingh, and then Bruno Martins Indi received a straight red card in the 33rd minute for a rush of blood to the head. He had been clipped from behind by Kolbeinn Sigþórsson, and as both players fell over each other onto the ground, Martins Indi lashed out with his forearm, catching Sigþórsson on the neck, and all this right in front of the linesman on the near side.

Holland had lost their best player and were now also a man down, but still they pressed, with Memphis Depay assuming more responsibility; he sent over a dangerous-looking cross that evaded both defenders and attackers, and then sent in a low free-kick which was spilled by Halldórsson but the ball was cleared by a defender.

Huntelaar was seeing very little of the action, and Dutch manager Danny Blind replaced him with Jeffrey Bruma as the first half drew to a close. Sneijder had another go from long range just before half-time, but his shot was easily saved by Halldórsson.

Memphis Depay is unable to prevent the ball going out for a throw-in on a night when nothing went right for the Dutch

Sneijder's effort was indicative of the first half, with the Dutch pressurising and having a fair number of shots on goal, but they did not unduly trouble the Icelandic defence and most of the few shots they had on target were no trouble for Halldórsson.

Iceland began the second half in attacking mode, and Johann Gudmundsson's work on the right led to a pass inside to Ári Skúlason, but his 25-yard shot flew to the right of Jasper Cillessen and his goal. The visitors kept up the pressure, and Bjarnason and Sigurdsson were at the heart of it.

After a receiving knockdown from Sigþórsson inside the Dutch box in the 51st minute, Bjarnason advanced towards the goal-line but was tripped by the lunging Gregory van der Wiel some ten yards out; watching the incident take place, it was as if it had happened in slow motion but it was a definite penalty. Both Dutch players and fans howled to high heaven, but to no avail; Serbian referee Milorad Mazic pointed to the spot and had got his second contentious decision of the evening just as spot-on as he had his first (Martins Indi's red card).

Before the match, Gylfi Sugurdsson was the (almost) unanimous choice amongst the Icelandic faithful as the man most likely to carry their team to qualification for Euro 2016, and he did not let them down. His penalty, low and to the right of Cillessen, although probably not the best he has ever taken, was good enough to put Iceland in front, despite the 'keeper getting both hands to the ball.

Gylfi Sigurdsson scores Iceland's winning goal from the penalty-spot

Bjarnason was involved in the next move of note three minutes later; he collected a cross-field pass inside the Dutch penalty-area, held up the ball, passed it back to Gudmundsson, whose deftly curled effort from 20 yards smacked off the upright with Cillesen beaten. Sigþórsson skewered the rebound wide under pressure from a defender.

The Dutch cranked up the pressure again, with Sneijder's low shot again proving no problem for Halldórsson; the Icelandic goalkeeper had to be a little more alert moments later when he dealt well with a curling shot from Depay. Sigþórsson was substituted in the 64th minute by Eiður Gudjohnsen as Holland kept attempting to breach the Icelandic defence but were abjectly unsuccessful; the vast majority of their shots on goal were from outside the penalty-area.

Gylfi Sigurdsson is mobbed by his team-mates after putting Iceland in front..

..whilst, at the other end, 3000 Iceland supporters raise the roof

Narsingh was doing his best to bring something fresh to the home team's approach by going on a run, cutting in and shooting from distance, but the ball went wide of the right-hand post. He took matters into his own hands again in the 69th minutes when a couple of his team-mates had chances to shoot, but didn't; however, his shot from the edge of the area went wide.

Almost immediately, the boys in blue darted down the other end, and Cillesen had to be at his acrobatic best twice within the space of a few seconds; he denied first Gudmundsson and then Sigurdsson with two flying saves to parry away stinging shots from outside the box. The second resulted in a corner which was met by Gudjohnsen, who sent his half-volley well over the bar. Bjarnason and Gudjohnsen combined to set up a chance for Gudmundsson with fifteen minutes left, but the latter's half-volley from the right-hand side careered across the area and wide.

Depay continued to be the most likely of the Dutch players to find the key to unlock the visitors' defence, but even he was suffering from "hit-and-hope" syndrome; Narsingh set him up as the game entered the last ten minutes of normal time, but the Manchester United man's shot was tame. 

Wesley Sneijder at last tested Halldórsson with a low shot from distance, to which the 'keeper was able to get his fingertips and divert it away for a corner. He had another go with a low shot in the 88th minute, this time from actually inside the area, but Halldórsson got to it, albeit with some difficulty.

Three minutes of injury-time should have signalled a cavalry charge from, and a shot at salvation for, Oranje, but the best they could do was fashion another chance for Sneijder, whose snapshot from 20 yards or so simply hadn't enough power to worry Halldórsson. With that ended the game as a contest, if one could call it that, and upon the final whistle which followed a minute or so later, the 3000 Icelandic fans who made the trip to the ArenA and had supported their team vociferously from the off cranked up the decibel level still further.

Sneijder's final attempt on goal was typical of the Dutch team's evening; they just didn't have enough power in the front-line, nor did they have the invention needed to unlock the Icelandic defence, which had come to Holland to garner a point any which way they could. Holland gave Hannes Halldórsson far too little to do, and were restricted to shots from distance by a defence which was marshalled to perfection by Ragnar Sigurdsson and which performed superlatively as a unit. Robben looked sprightly until he pulled up, Sneijder did his best but his best days are now surely behind him, and only Depay and, to a lesser extent, Narsingh and Cillesen, really made their mark for Danny Blind's team on a night to forget for the hosts. It was hardly the way Blind would have wanted to begin his career as Netherlands manager. 

The Netherlands attack the Icelandic defence, but the ball was eventually cleared

On the other hand, this was the night when Icelandic football, at international level at least, can be said to have come of age. The management duo of Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson have moulded a team of some quality who fully deserved the win on the night and who, to pull a football cliché out of the bag, play for the shirt. 

The entire team gained a collective five stars for their overall performance, but Birkir Bjarnason was, in the eyes of your correspondent anyway, man of the match; he pulled the strings in midfield and was a bundle of energy throughout the ninety minutes, rampaging through midfield one moment, helping out his defence the next, and then suddenly appearing in the last third of the pitch. 

The victory meant that Iceland only needed a point to qualify for their maiden major final tournament, which they achieved three days later thanks to a nervy, dull 0:0 draw at home to Kazakhstan. Captain Áron Gunnarsson will probably miss the first match of Euro 2016 thanks to his second yellow card of the game, which he received in the last minute of normal time. That did not, however, dilute the celebrations amongst the Icelandic support at a packed Laugardalsvöllur as the point gained ensured that third-placed Turkey could not overhaul them in the standings. Joining Iceland at Euro 2016 from Group A are the Czech Republic, who won 2:1 away to Latvia the same evening.

For the Netherlands, though, worrying times lie ahead; they have been poor throughout the entire campaign, and prior to the match against Turkey had only won a single point in the matches up to that point against the Turks, Iceland and the Czech Republic. In front of a packed house in Konya, they looked for most of the match like a team which had completely lost its way, and meekly went down to a 3:0 defeat and fourth place in the group table.

The Icelandic team and their supporters celebrate as one; will we see more of the same during Euro 2016?

That will no longer concern Iceland, who conclude their programme with a home match against Latvia on 10/10/15 and a match away to Turkey three days later. A win against the Latvians will more or less guarantee top spot thanks to a superior goal-difference over the Czech Republic, who also face the Turks before heading to Amsterdam for their final match against the Netherlands, two games which will also help determine who finishes top, but who ends up in third place in the group and so be in line for a play-off spot. 

Iceland's qualification will surely turn out to be a shot in the arm for domestic football, which is already the most popular sport in the country amongst both males and females but is still weak in comparison to most of the rest of Europe. The women's team qualified for the 2013 Women's Euros and reached the quarter-finals; it would be a surprise if the men's team were able to emulate that feat, but with Messrs Lagerback and Hallgrimsson at the helm, this possibility should not be discounted. The team have already achieved much over the past few years, losing out in the 2014 World Cup play-offs to Croatia and now qualifying for Euro 2016. It will be interesting to see what the near future will bring. One thing's for sure: Iceland fully deserve their place at the big table of European football and they - and their supporters - will surely do the continent's lesser lights proud.

Plaudits for the Iceland squad from friend and foe alike

THE NETHERLANDS: 1 Jasper CILLESEN, 2 Gregory VAN DER WIEL, 3 Stefan DE VRIJ, 4 Bruno MARTINS INDI, 5 Daley BLIND, 6 Davy KLAASSEN, 7 Memphis DEPAY, 8 Georginio WYNALDUM (21 Quincy PROMES), 9 Klaas-Jan HUNTELAAR (13 Jeffrey BRUMA); 10 Wesley SNEIJDER, 11 Arjen ROBBEN (17 Luciano NARSINGH)

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 12 Kenny TETE, 14 Jairo RIEDEWALD, 15 Terence KONGOLO, 16 Vurnon ANITA, 18 Luuk DE JONG, 19 Robin VAN PERSIE, 20 Ibrahim AFELLAY, 22 Tim KRUL (GK), 23 Jeroen ZOET (GK)


SUBSTITUTES (unused): 3 Hallgrímur JÓNASSON, 4 Kristinn JÓNSSON, 5 Sólvi OTTESEN, 12 Ögmundur KRISTINNSON (GK), 13 Gunnleifur GUNNLEIFSSON (GK), 16 Rúnar Már SIGURJÓNSSON, 18 Elmar BJARNASON, 19 Rúrik GÍSLASON, 21 Vidar Orn KJARTANSSON