Support for Iceland hotting up

Iceland’s national football team were the unlikely heroes of the UEFA Euro 2016 in July, not only reaching the quarter finals in its first major tournament but also increasing the number of followers on Twitter by 56 per cent.

The smallest nation to ever qualify for a major tournament, Iceland’s official team Twitter account @footballiceland received the biggest increase in followers of any of the 24 teams participating, increasing from 13,100 followers to 20,400.

To put that number in context, it amounts to six per cent of Iceland’s population of 332,529. However, establishing a global audience for the account may be tricky: it is written in Icelandic.

Wales, another team who achieved unexpected success by reaching the semi-finals, follow not far behind, with an increase of 32 per cent in their @FAWales Twitter following from 124,000 to 164,000. And the support keeps growing. Today, the team has more than 167,000 followers on Twitter.

Winners Portugal also enjoyed a solid 22 per cent rise in Twitter followers over the tournament, but the majority of qualifying teams recorded an average increase in followers of five per cent. Only Ukraine and Switzerland failed to capitalise on the excitement.

Ukraine’s Twitter followers rose just 0.34 per cent while Switzerland’s football team added 0.76 per cent. Of all the national teams in the tournament, Sweden is the only one not to have a dedicated Twitter account.

More than 109 million tweets were sent relating to Euro 2016, according to Twitter, with 14.2 million of them sent during the final between France and Portugal.

Perhaps due to their longevity in the tournament, France and Portugal were also the most tweeted about teams, followed by Germany, Wales and, more surprisingly, England. This could be due to the fact that, according to marketing company Smart Insights, 345 million people are online in Western Europe, compared to 271 million in the Eastern part of the continent.

Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo was the most tweeted about player in the tournament, but he already had a solid base with 45.1 million followers, more than four times the entire population of Portugal.

Ronaldo was followed by French forward Antoine Griezmann, who was named Player of the Tournament after becoming its top goal scorer. Gareth Bale, who scored three goals for Wales, making him the country’s all time top scorer in international tournaments, ranked fourth and is the only player from the UK in the top five.

The moments from group stage to the final that caused the greatest spikes in conversation on Twitter were the final whistle, followed by the goal in extra time from Portuguese striker Éder, which won his team the trophy.

Ronaldo’s injury, which forced him to sit out the final, similarly caused a stir on the social media platform, whilst Iceland’s winning performance against England was also tweeted about heavily, including by pundit Gary Lineker, who tweeted The worst defeat in our history. England beaten by a country with more volcanoes than professional footballers. Well played Iceland.

Research from Kantar Media suggests the Internet is the second most popular way of engaging with football, with three quarters of people saying they did this, compared with 93 per cent who said they engaged with the game by watching it on TV. Three in five said they engaged with it in print media.

This article first appeared in issue 108