Iceland topped their group which was no small achievement considering Croatia were the strong favourites.

TAGS:

Iceland World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group, Guide

Amazingly, Iceland reached the 2018 World Cup finals as winners of their group. They are by far the smallest nation ever to qualify and – at a mere 339,000 – the first with a population under a million. The team were a bit rusty at first, following an amazing run at their first major tournament at Euro 2016, where they were unbeaten until losing in the quarter-finals to hosts France. The players grew in strength and, against all odds, won seven of their 10 games, including all of their home games.

Related: World Cup Stadiums

Key Moments in Qualifying 

Sep 2016
A lucky 3-2 win over Finland with two goals in injury time, including a disputed winner.
Sep 2017
Strangely, a 1-0 loss to Finland in Tampere, with three more games to play, is crucial. The players realise they have probably become complacent and, following the defeat, they go back to basics.
Oct 2017
A fantastic 3-0 win away to Turkey puts Iceland on top of the group again, as Croatia draw at home against Finland the same night.
Oct 2017
Playing hosts to Kosovo, and with their fate in their own hands, they break down their resilient guests just before half-time, adding a second goal after the interval.

Iceland World Cup Group

Iceland are in Group D alongside Argentina, Ivan Rakitic’s Croatia, and Nigeria.

Iceland World Cup Friendlies

In January of 2018, Iceland dismantled Indonesia 4-1, to get the year off to winning ways. In March they play Mexico and Peru. Their final warm up game is against Norway on the 2nd of June.

  • 14th January – Indonesia (won 4-1)
  • 24th March – Mexico (lost 3-0)
  • 28th March – Peru (lost 3-1)
  • 2nd June – Norway

Related: World Cup Friendlies

Iceland World Cup Fixtures

Iceland open their tough group account against Argentina on the 16th of June. Nigeria then await on the 22nd, and finally a potentially crucial game against Croatia takes place on the 26th.

Related: Ivan Rakitic November 2007 

The Coach 

Heimir Hallgrimsson, age 50 (10.06.67)
A qualified dentist who still runs a clinic in his native Westmann Islands, he was appointed assistant to Lars Lagerback, when the Icelandic Football Federation hired the Swede as national coach in 2011. Shortly after failing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, Hallgrimsson and Lagerback signed contracts as joint managers, and when the Swede called it a day after Euro 2016, Hallgrimsson became the sole boss.

Going Solo: Hallgrimsson was a joint manager with Lars Lagerback but now he has sole possession of the head coaching role (Getty Images)

The Players 
Stars
Although having a very quiet start to his Everton career, midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson was top scorer during the World Cup qualifying campaign.
Stalwarts
Captain Aron Einar Gunnarsson is the heart of the Iceland team, with Sigurdsson being the brain. Gunnarsson’s never-say-die attitude is crucial, pulling the strings in midfield and allowing Sigurdsson time and space to attack. Centre-backs Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kari Arnason are an important pairing, with keeper Hannes Halldorsson another essential piece in the puzzle.
Missing
Forward Kolbeinn Sigthorsson has hardly played since Euro 2016, having sustained a knee injury in September 2016, but he hopes to return to action before the end of 2017.

Iceland World Cup Squad

Preliminary World Cup Squad – 

Goalkeepers – Hannes Halldorsson, Runar Runarsson, Frederik Schram

Defenders – Karl Arnason, Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson, Jon Fjoluson, Sverrir Ingi Ingson, Hordur Magnusson, Birkir Saevarsson, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Ari Skulason

Midfielders – Birkir Bjarnason, Theodor Bjarnason, Rurik Gislason, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Aron Gunnarsson, Emil Hallfredsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Olafur Skulason

Forwards – Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Alfred Finnbogason, Albert Gudmundsson, Bjorn Bergmann Sigudarson

Iceland World Cup Injuries

Iceland’s best player Gylfi Sigurdsson suffered a serious knee injury whilst playing for Everton. He is in a race against time to be fit for the tournament.

Related: World Cup TV Schedule

Playmaker: Sigurdsson was their top scorer during the qualifying campaign (Getty Images)

The Unanswered Questions

How can such a small nation qualify for the World Cup?
The recent generation of players is strong, both physically and mentally. All of them playing professionally abroad, although few are with big teams in strong leagues.

How have Iceland climbed the FIFA ranking list so quickly?
The transition can be traced back 15 years to when the country started building indoor football arenas. Before then, adverse weather conditions meant players could not train properly during the winter. Another reason is a high standard of coaches.

Captain: Gunnarsson is one of their most important players (Getty Images)

Has Iceland got enough strength in depth if key players get injured?
If important players such as captain Gunnarsson or Gylfi Sigurdsson are not available, their replacements would not be of the same quality even though Iceland has a pretty strong squad of 20 to 25 players. Recent friendlies suggest that, at this moment in time, others are not ready to step up.

Related: World Cup Fixtures

Will Heimir Hallgrimsson stick to his tried and tested 4-4-2 formation?
Iceland usually play 4-4-2 but during the qualifiers they sometimes used a 4-5-1 set-up, with Sigurdsson in the hole behind a lone striker. In a recent friendly they even experimented with three centre-backs in a five-man defensive line – which could be used at times in the summer.

Don’t forget to follow World Soccer on Facebook, and Twitter.