Qualification history
In the space of four short years Iceland went from last place in their group in the qualifiers for South Africa 2010 to the play-offs for Brazil 2014, where defeat to Croatia denied them a maiden FIFA World Cup™ appearance. On the back of that massive improvement in performance, the talented Icelanders maintained their staggering upward trajectory to become the smallest ever nation to qualify for a World Cup, winning Russia 2018 qualifying Group I. They ended up top of a very tough pool, seeing off the challenge of Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey, to pip Trinidad and Tobago in 2006 as the smallest country by population to reach the global showpiece.

The team
Following the retirement of gifted veterans such as the former Barcelona man Eidur Gudjohnsen, the exciting new generation that fared so well in the qualifiers for Brazil 2014 will spearhead Iceland’s push for a berth in Russia. The goalscoring nous and talent of the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, which inspired the country to a UEFA EURO U-21 finals debut in 2011, will be crucial to their hopes of success. At UEFA EURO 2016, Iceland incredibly reached the quarter-finals, including a 2-1 victory over England in the Round of 16 and a 1-1 draw with eventual tournament winners Portugal in the group stage.

The coach
Appointed to the Iceland job in 2011, Swedish coach Lars Lagerback took the side to the brink of qualification for Brazil and masterminded an historic UEFA EURO 2016 campaign. After their successful tournament in France, the national football association announced that Heimir Hallgrimsson, former joint-coach with Lagerback, would take over as the team's head coach.

The stat
5 -
The number of wins Iceland recorded in the Brazil 2014 qualifiers, equivalent to nearly a quarter of all their World Cup qualifying victories prior to that campaign.

The former stars
Runar Kristinsson