Iceland will make history this summer as they play in their first World Cup in Russia. It caps off what has been a remarkable few years for the tiny nation in football terms and they will be hopeful of shocking the world once again, as they did against England two years ago. Just becoming a World Cup 2018 participant is a massive achievement from Iceland who have been drawn to face Nigeria, Croatia and Argentina in what will be an extremely tough group.
However, the prospect of facing top-quality players, including Lionel Messi, will be incredible for these players who have punched above their weight for the past few years now. Here at Open Odds we will give you the lowdown on the Wold Cup 2018 Iceland team, look at Iceland betting odds and highlight who the key men will be.
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Iceland prediction: How well will they do?
Firstly, after their heroic achievements two years ago nobody should just dismiss Iceland. Even after the euphoria of their achievements in France in 2016, they still managed to back it up by progressing from a very tough UEFA qualifying group, so this is not a side that just got lucky. They’ve done well for years now and thoroughly deserve their place on the biggest stage. However, you have to say that they have been handed an extremely tough group and they will be up against it in all of the games.
Argentina look to be the standout team in the group and they will fully expect to win Group D, and you wouldn’t back against that happening with Messi in the team. Then, Croatia will justifiably think they can come second and on paper they have a far, far superior squad to Iceland which means they may realistically be hoping for a third place finish. Nigeria are a difficult side to predict and their game against Iceland will be fascinating as it brings two contrasting styles together.
Iceland are 15/8 with Sky Bet for a third place finish and that is certainly possible however we would back the Nigerians to just have the edge over Iceland when they meet and we will recommend backing Iceland to finish last at odds of 11/10 with the same bookmaker. That’s not to say we feel Iceland are going to be the whipping boys of Group D and they may even get a point, but they are up against some real quality sides and the gulf in class could show. Iceland to finish last in Group D – 11/10 Sky Bet.
Journey to the World Cup — Who did Iceland beat to qualify?
As mentioned, it’s tough to back against Iceland because they’ve shown they are a very capable team over the years. They topped a very tough group containing Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey so it really was an outstanding feat to finish first. They will know all about Croatia when it comes to the World Cup because of these games but unfortunately for Iceland they seem to be in a much better place now in terms of the management and structure of the team so they will present a different test.
Once again, the togetherness and determination of the side was evident and they find ways to win which is a significant quality to have. All in all, they won seven of their ten games, which highlights how they are also capable of playing away from home and dealing with pressure. Coming through such a group will also give the players even more belief and confidence that they do belong with the good sides in world football and that could be vital ahead of Russia.
Best players for Iceland: Who should you be betting on?
Any England will tell you from experience that the best part of Iceland is the team collective. They all work hard for each other, all know their roles and all give everything they’ve got to be successful – and it’s worked. Yet, they still have key individuals who can step up when need be, players that English fans will also recognise.
There’s no doubt that the star man in this side is Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson who has been influential in their success over the years. He is without doubt the most technically gifted player in the squad and is excellent on the ball, whether it’s from set-pieces or in play. His delivery is crucial to Iceland who are very strong from set-plays. Given his class and the opportunities he will find in the final third, we will back him to be Iceland’s top scorer at odds of 10/3 with Bet Victor. Even though he doesn’t play up front, he is an intelligent player and will find the right positions and could chip in with vital goals.
Iceland will have been extremely worried after he was ruled out with a knee injury for Everton earlier in the season but he should be fit and ready for the Argentina game that kicks things off for his country. Other players to watch for are Alfred Finnbogason who is a capable striker, whilst Aron Gunnarsson, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Birkir Bjarnason and Hordur Magnusson are names that Championship fans will recognise. Gylfi Sigurdsson top Iceland scorer – 10/3 Bet Victor
Who manages Iceland?
Heimir Hallgrímsson is the Iceland manager and has been involved in the national team setup for the past seven years now. After initially joining as assistant, he then became joint-manager with Lars Lagerback, the experienced Swedish coach and the pair were responsible for the remarkable turnaround in Icelandic football and that memorable Euro 2016 campaign.
After that though, Lagerback left and Hallgrímsson took sole charge and it is proof of just how good he is that results have not suffered at all since. He will no doubt use the experience of two years ago to fall back on but he has created a squad and environment that reminds you of a club team. Everyone is pulling in the same direction, desperate to do as well as possible and he has to take credit for that.
Why bet on Iceland?
This World Cup team Iceland have will be ready to shock the world again and because of their form over the past three years they have to be taken seriously. This is their first World Cup and they will be determined to make it one to remember. They have clear qualities and play to their strengths so there is a lot to like about Iceland for punters. However, the big issue is the calibre of sides they are up against. Argentina are formidable, particularly going forward and Croatia boast a superb squad.
We’ve no doubt that Iceland will make it competitive and may even nick a point of one of those two but it’s a big ask for a squad that largely consists of players who don’t play in elite leagues. They will be targeting Nigeria and hope to finish third but again it’s a big ask. Whatever happens though, Iceland will add a lot to the World Cup even if they are only in Russia for three games.