FIFA World Cup Special : Team talk – Debutantes Iceland looking to repeat their Euro 2016 dream run

Surprise package of EURO 2016, Iceland will be determined to leave their mark.

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We continue our “Team Talks” for Group D of the FIFA World Cup 2018, with newcomers Iceland.

Team : ICELAND

Coach: Heimir Hallgrímsson
Captain: Aron Gunnarsson
Nickname(s): Strákarnir okkar(Our Boys)
Last Qualified in: Never
Result in 2014: Not Applicable
Qualified as: UEFA Group I Winners (09 October 2017)
Previous World Cup Appearances: Debut Appearance.
Best World Cup Finals Result: Group Stages 2018*.

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Final Squad:

Hannes Thor Halldorsson, Runar Alex Runarsson, Frederik Schram; Kari Arnason, Ari Freyr Skulason, Birkir Mar Saevarsson, Sverrir Ingi Ingason, Hordur Magnusson, Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson, Ragnar Sigurdsson; Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Birkir Bjarnason, Arnor Ingvi Traustason, Emil Hallfredsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Olafur Ingi Skulason, Rurik Gislason, Samuel Fridjonsson, Aron Gunnarsson; Alfred Finnbogason, Bjorn Bergmann Sigurdarson, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Albert Gudmundsson.

Key Players:

1) Hannes Haldorsson: 

The 34-year old Randers FC keeper was one of Iceland’s hero in their first exploits at a major European stage in Euro 2016. The 6 ft 5 inches tall goalkeeper will again need to thwart all the attacks thrown at him during their clashes in the Group of Death.

2) Ragnar Sigurdsson: 

The FC Rostov defender is one of the top capped players in the Iceland squad with 77 appearances to his name. Iceland’s hero from their famous knock-out win over England in the UEFA Euro pre-quarters, will once again need to up his game, when he travels to his country of trade with the national team this summer.

3) Johan Berg Gudmundsson:

The Burnley winger was very good in the recently concluded Premier League season, where The Clarets finished 7th. The 27-year old played 35 games, scoring 2 and assisting 8. Iceland fans will have a lot of faith in Berg to deliver in the grandest stage of all.

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4) Birkir Bjarnason: 

The Aston Villa midfielder was Iceland’s joint top scorer in the Euro 2016 and was also the first ever Icelandic scorer in any major international competition. The 30-year old almost won promotion to the Premier League with Aston Villa this season, before failing at the final hurdle against Fulham. The central midfielder will once again be crucial for Iceland.

5) Aron Gunnarsson:

The Iceland captain is one of, if not the most inspirational leaders in the World of Football. The 29-year old will be playing in the Premier League next season with the newly promoted Cardiff City. He will be leading the debuting Nordic nation at the Greatest Show on Earth.

6) Gylfi Sigurdsson:

Iceland’s best player in years was involved in a club record transfer when he moved to Everton at the start of the recently concluded season. The 28-year old is his country’s top scorer in the World Cup squad and 3rd in the all time list. There’s no doubt regarding who will the Iceland team build most of their attacks around, come Russia 2018.

Recent Form:

Iceland have lost 6 times in their last 16 matches, while drawing 2 and wining 8. However The Nordic Nation are winless in their last 4 matches with defeats against Mexico, Peru and Norway, before a draw with Ghana. Their last win came against lowly Indonesia in January.

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Group matches:

Iceland have been drawn in Group D alongside Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria. They will play Argentina in their opening match on 16th of June, followed by Nigeria and Croatia on 22st and 26th June respectively.

Prediction:

Drawn in practically the group of death, it will be practically impossible for Iceland to progress beyond the group phase. But an upset or two might just make them reach the knockout rounds in Russia.

Trivia:

In terms of population, Iceland is the smallest nation ever to qualify for the final rounds of a FIFA World Cup. With a population of 350,710 (as on 31st March 2018), they have almost 1/4th the population of the next smallest country to have qualified for the finals in Trinidad and Tobago. To put into perspective Iceland will be ranked as the 129th most populated city in India(according to 2011 census)!

 

How far do you think Iceland will progress this year? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Photo by www.steveconover.info

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