Iceland: World Cup 2018 team guide – Group D opponents and fixtures, kits, key player, probable line-up
Iceland take part in their first World Cup this summer. talkSPORT.com takes an in-depth look at the Group D nation.
Heimir Hallgrimsson took the reigns as Iceland’s sole manager at the end of Euro 2016, after sharing the role with Lars Lagerback for a couple of years. The 50-year-old spent his entire playing career in his homeland, where he also served as a dentist for the local village. Hallgrimsson continued with his dentistry part-time while joint-managing Iceland with Lagerback, although he now focuses solely on football.
Since taking individual control of Strakarnir okkar, Hallgrimsson has won 10 of 19 matches, drawing two and losing the remaining seven.
Iceland’s captain since 2012 has been Aron Gunnarsson, who is a familiar face to fans of English football. He has played on these shores for the majority of his career, joining Coventry in 2008 before moving on to Cardiff City three years later. A combative central midfielder, Gunnarsson is solid in all aspects of the game, and is a great leader in the middle of the park.
He has won 77 caps for his nation since making his first appearance in 2008, and he became the first man to captain Iceland at a major international tournament, when Strakarnir okkar reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.
Gylfi Sigurdsson has been a key player for Iceland in their recent rise, and he top scored in World Cup qualifying with four goals in 10 matches. His set-piece ability makes Sigurdsson a major attacking outlet for Iceland, as no one else in Hallgrimsson’s squad provides real quality in the final third.
This is why Iceland were panicked when Sigurdsson picked up an injury in March, playing for Everton in the Premier League. He had to see a specialist due to a knee problem which kept him out of action for the remainder of the domestic season, but he was named in Hallgrimsson’s squad regardless, and has returned to training ahead of Iceland’s pre-tournament friendlies.
ONE TO WATCH
Albert Gudmundsson earned his place in Hallgrimsson’s squad for the finals having impressed in a January friendly against Indonesia, when the winger netted a hat-trick in a 4-1 win. Aged just 20, Gudmundsson is the youngest member of Iceland’s team, and could prove to be something of a livewire in Russia; his pace and dribbling ability will make him a threat if brought on from the bench against tiring opponents.
At club level, the youngster represents PSV Eindhoven, with nine first-team appearances to his name.
Saturday, June 16: ARGENTINA v Iceland (Otkrytie Arena, Moscow) – kick-off 14:00
Friday, June 22: NIGERIA v Iceland (Volgograd Arena, Volgograd) – kick-off 16:00
Tuesday, June 26: Iceland v CROATIA (Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don) – kick-off 19:00
RECORD IN QUALIFYING
Iceland were drawn in a tough qualification group, with four of the six teams in Group I present at Euro 2016 – the highest proportion of any group. Nonetheless, Iceland booked their place in Russia automatically by finishing first, two points ahead of runners-up Croatia.
Although they conceded just seven goals in their 10 qualifiers, worrying for Iceland is the fact that no other UEFA group winner scored fewer than their 16 goals throughout the qualifying campaign.
Iceland will play two matches prior to the finals, with both Norway and Ghana visiting Reykjavik on June 2 and 7 respectively.
Resort Centre Nadezhda, Krasnodar region
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