There is an undeniable novelty factor to Iceland’s participation at Russia 2018.
Even their manager, Heimir Hallgrimsson, acknowledged as much after their spot at the FIFA World Cup™ - and place in history as the smallest nation ever to qualify - was secured. “This is really odd,” he said. “I mean, Pele, Maradona... Aron Einar Gunnarsson.”
But don’t be fooled by this light-hearted suggestion that Iceland, and their bearded captain, might seem out of place among the game’s greats on the global stage. For all the focus on their record-breaking population, they were also the smallest country ever to qualify for the UEFA European Championship – and everyone knows how that tale unfolded.
Indeed, while Iceland’s World Cup hopes haven’t been aided by a tough draw that has pitted them against Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria, there is plenty of cause for optimism. And if Lionel Messi, Luka Modric and Co need any reminding, FIFA.com has five reasons why the Nordic newcomers are a team worth fearing.
*1. They are serial giant-killers *‘The bigger they are, the harder they fall’ seems to be the motto of a team that, over the past couple of years, has beaten the likes of Croatia, the Netherlands, Turkey, Ukraine, Greece and, most famously of all, England. As midfielder Olafur Skulason said: "I could see the newspapers in other countries talking about how unlucky we are to get that kind of group - but that is exactly what we want. We want those big games. We want to play against Argentina. What an amazing team to play against in the first game ever for Iceland in the World Cup!"