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Why Iceland are the World Cup’s underdogs?

Written by: Rohan Philip

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European football's biggest giant killers return looking for more scalps, this time on the biggest stage of them all.

Throughout it’s history, football has given us scores of iconic moments that will stay with us all our lives, but seldom do we get moments as captivating and as chilling as the Icelandic national team standing on French soil, leading their tr travelling fans in celebration. The stadiums were quiet, but for the jarring war claps of the Vikings as they had beaten the founders of the game, England, to knock them out of the Euros. Iceland had well and truly announced their arrival on the International stage.

Iceland topped their qualifying group above the formidable likes of Croatia and Turkey to ensure that they were the smallest nation to ever qualify for the competition. They were drafted into Group D for the group stages of the competition, with Argentina, Nigeria and Croatia. Not a lot of people have given Iceland a chance in Russia, with few expecting them to proceed beyond the Round of 16. However, as has been proven time and time again that the World Cup finals never fail to defy expectations and to surprise us all.

We can look back to South Korea’s incredible World Cup run in 2002, with the joint hosts managing to knockout an Italian team boasting some of the biggest names in the game. Iceland are a team of a similar calibre, who have fought to get where they are. The Icelandic FA has put in a lot of sustained work to get the team to the position that they are in, with an exponential increase in the number of Icelandic coaches earning their licences.


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Iceland, who overtook Trinidad and Tobago as the smallest country to ever take part in a World Cup, has a population of around 330,000. The team has faced considerable challenges with personnel with none of the current SIDE having taken part in the Champions League. However, the tactics that they employ to immense precision have seen them topple relative European giants like Croatia.

The Nordic nation have received an enormous boost in the form of Everton man, Gylfi Sigurðsson as he was deemed fit enough to take part in the tournament in Russia. The midfielder has endured a tough start to his Merseyside career with injuries getting in his way throughout the season. If the 28-year-old can rediscover the form that brought him to the Toffees, at the World Cu, Iceland will be all the better for it.

Iceland lie in a very tricky group, with Lionel Messi’s Argentina looking favourites to top it. They will look to games against Croatia and Nigeria as potential keys to progression. If they can pull off similar upsets to the ones at the Euros, we might be in for something very special this summer.

The famous Viking Clap by the Iceland fans

Despite the fact that they topped their group in qualifying, Iceland are still widely regarded as underdogs in the World Cup. They proved to the world that they weren’t the stereotypical one hit wonders, as they qualified for the summer tournament. However, the little Nordic nation will relish the tag and will most certainly play like men on a mission to prove their abilities to the world.

While we can only guess how they will perform at the World Cup, we can be sure of one thing, they will celebrate everything they do in Russia, just the way they came into the tournament, as a team and as a country.

When Leicester City defied the odds to lift the Premier League title in 2015-2016, the famous English commentator, Peter Drury famously stated after a goal against Manchester City, “Why shouldn’t they be Champions?”. The statement was made as Leicester’s rise to the top of the league was met with shock and disbelief.

We now ask, “Why shouldn’t Iceland do well?”. Football is a fickle sport and the impossible takes place on a regular basis. So, what is stopping a little Nordic nation resting on volcanic soil with the population of a large town, from toppling the biggest footballing countries in the world? Absolutely nothing. Give it your best lads!

Published: Fri Jun 01, 2018 03:55 PM IST

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