Iceland might be a small country in terms of population but don’t let that fool you. They are as strong a side as any and are dark horses in the FIFA World Cup in Russia next month.
With the month of June coming up, the excitement is palpable among the football fans across the world but the people of Iceland will be eagerly waiting to see their team in action once the tournament kicks off.
The country exceeded expectations in the Euro 2016 and even though Portugal won that competition, Iceland walked away with admiration from fans and critics alike. Back then, a lot of people wrote them off as a one-time wonder but Iceland proved the naysayers wrong yet again in their brilliant World Cup qualifying campaign.
They are placed in Group D which also houses Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria – all formidable nations equally capable of causing a nasty upset. However, that should not deter Iceland’s forces.
If they continue playing the way they have so far, one cannot put a limit on where Iceland can finish this campaign.
With the World Cup set to commence soon, one can expect a lot of passion, bravery and heroics from Iceland.
Undeniably, they are in quite a tough group and playing against the likes of Argentina and Croatia, in particular, could throw a dampener to their party. But we all know that anything can happen at a World Cup.
There are a lot of players in Iceland who are more than capable of scoring goals and injecting creativity into the attack. The World Cup usually brings with it a pacy style of play and on that front, Iceland certainly do not lack any power.
Despite being a defensive unit, their strength is further proven by the fact that 9 different players scored for the team during their qualification stages.
Be it their attackers, midfielders or defenders, almost all the players in the team are attack-oriented and are extremely strong when it comes to counter-attacking situations. Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson is a specialist in attacking moves and expect him to construct counter-attacks.
Iceland may be a promising team but they often struggle to hold on to the ball, which disrupts their momentum. Also, as is the case with most defensive units, one tiny individual mistake can prove to be the undoing.
We saw a similar situation unravel with them in the Euro 2016 and let’s hope they learn from their mistakes and are able to dominate possession better.
Coach: Heimir Hallgrimsson
Hallgrimsson’s approach lays an emphasis on set-pieces and counter-attacks, and this Iceland team certainly thrives in those situations. But in the Group D, the coach might adopt a more pragmatic yet cautious stance.
They usually line up in a 4-2-3-1 which often turns out to be rigid on the field. However, Hallgrimsson has worked well with Iceland in recent times.
Key Player: Kolbeinn Sigthorsson
To successfully navigate out of Group D, Iceland will need a proven goalscoring machine. On that front, Sigthorsson does not disappoint. Currently playing for Nantes, Sigthorsson is regarded as one of Iceland’s most lethal strikers.
His stint with the Ligue 1 club has not been the best this season but one must not forget that he single-handedly knocked England out of Euro 2016.
Also, Sigthorsson’s goalscoring skills are widely renowned across Iceland since he continues to be their top-scorer despite playing just 44 games so far.
Iceland have all the qualities required to cause an upset but more often than not, we see teams like this go in with a lot of expectations only to falter in the end.
Given the gravity of the situation, let’s hope Iceland do not encounter a similar fate. More than anything else, it will be crucial for them to maintain consistency because they are placed in a very tough group.
Straight off the bat, Argentina and Croatia are the favourites to qualify and if Iceland are to tip the scales in their favour, they must put up performances worthy of the same.