Comb your beards, grab your Viking horns, and put on the war paint because the thunderclap is back! The World Cup is nearly here and so too is the tournament’s first-time participant: Iceland. Expect all-out bedlam when our team steps onto the field. Our boys have a scrappy team, but given this is our first appearance we are going to play fearlessly. Iceland may be the smallest country, in terms of population, ever admitted to the tournament but don’t let the numbers fool you. We might be a small Nordic nation, but we play with heaps of heart, grit, and precision. The World Cup officially kicks off June 14th and culminates July 15th. If you don’t know anything about the World Cup, I would be surprised and concerned, but it is possible. For the uninitiated, let me catch you up to speed.
32 national squads receive bids to compete in the tournament. Each team starts in a group of four other teams, eight groups in total. If they make it out of the group stage, they proceed through regular play (round of 16, quarterfinals, etc.) until hopefully, they reach the championship. Each group is different, and the group dynamic can swing wildly. Iceland’s group, Group D, is arguably the most competitive. We are up for a challenge as we face perennial favorites Argentina and Nigeria. Argentina always puts forward a strong team, and with Lionel Messi in his prime, as well as with what may be his final chance to win the elusive top prize, they are looking to run the table. Nigeria’s team is nothing to scoff at either. Not only do they have the most stylish soccer kits ever, but they also have a team built to go the distance.
Our journey to the World Cup was nothing short of a Cinderella story. After winning the 2016 Euro league by beating Kosovo, we are riding a wave of skill and luck as far as it will take us. With coach Heimir Hallgrimsson and captain Aron Einar Gunnarsson leading us, we are in sure and steady hands. The other supporting cast members of this extraordinary run are center-backs Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kari Arnason, and our devilishly handsome midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. It is Hannes Halldorsson, our goalie, who has the weight of our entire nation on his shoulders. The one time 2012 Eurovision director, yes THAT Eurovision, finds himself staring down the barrel of some of the game’s top talent: a trophy hunting Lionel Messi, Chelsea scoring machine and Nigerian national Victor Moses, and Croatian midfield magician Luca Modrić will all be looking to put points on the board.
No matter the outcome, our presence in the World Cup is an accomplishment on its own. By defeating European powerhouse England in the 2016 Euro League and then knocking out Kosovo to punch our ticket to the World Cup, against all the odds, was the just the beginning. With our fans behind us, beers in front of us, and thunderclap Viking chants booming across our country, I believe we can go the distance. Join us as we smite the world, Áfram Ísland!
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