Iceland managed to take the lead only for a few minutes at the beginning of the first half but then paid dearly for concentrating on their technique rather than responding to France’s defence.
The Icelandic handball team first appeared at the Summer Olympic Games in 1972 when it came 12th. Beijing 2008 Olympics was their tenth Olympic participation with the best result so far; they came 4th in 1992.
“We are only 300,000 people,” Gudmundur Ingvarsson, president of the Iceland Handball Federation, said. “What do you expect?”
France’s only Olympic medal in this European-dominated sport was a bronze in 1992. They got three gold medals – two in the World Handball Championship (in 1995 and 2001) and one in the European championship (2006).
Iceland has never won a gold medal in any Olympic sport. That includes the Winter Games, despite the seeming advantage of having a winter-sport playing surface in the nation’s name. Iceland has won three Olympic medals in its history, all in individual summer sports — a triple-jump silver in 1956 (Vilhjalmur Einarsson), a judo bronze in 1984 (Bjarni Fridriksson) and a pole-vault bronze in 2000 (Vala Flosadottir).