Welcome back to our Get to Know series! As the competition in Russia fast approaches, we want you to be prepared to have your best summer of DFS yet. We’re dropping facts and player picks for some of the more obscure teams taking part in the 2018 World Cup. The hope is that this will enable you to play fantasy sport to your heart’s content—even if your preferred teams are having a rest day. As always, remember to get your friends involved too!
Now that we assume you’re all firm supporters of Panama, we’re going to throw another newbie into the mix. Think volcanic ash, hot springs and Viking settlers. They’re the smallest nation to qualify for the World Cup (an honour previously held by Trinidad and Tobago) and they rank #1 on the Global Peace Index.
That’s right, we’re getting to know… Iceland!
Location: Volcanic island in the North Atlantic Ocean
Capital City: Reykjavík
Official Language: Icelandic
Famous for: Active volcanoes and Björk
Fun Fact: They’re a bunch of cola-swigging bookworms! The country boasts the highest number of bookshops and consumes the most Coca Cola per capita in the world.
Road to the World Cup
Off the back of their impressive performance in Euro 2016 (where they managed to reach the quarter-finals), Iceland’s momentum shows no sign of slowing down. The team actually topped their group in the qualifying stages, which included experienced squads like Croatia and Ukraine. It almost makes you feel a little better about them knocking us out of the Euros. Almost.
A 3-0 trouncing of Turkey, followed by a 2-0 win over Kosovo sealed the deal for Iceland in October. They were off to Russia! As you might imagine, the celebrations weren’t exactly lacking in enthusiasm. Here’s the team performing an Icelandic ‘thunder clap’ with their fans:
Players to Watch
This guy is basically Mr Iceland when it comes to football. He’s been the recipient of the country’s Footballer of the Year award 6 times, 5 of those wins being consecutive! You may recognise him from the Premier League, where he currently plays for Everton. The attacking midfielder is excellent at assists, free kicks and scoring goals. He’s proof that this small team still has some big names.
Birkir Már Sævarsson
Sævarsson is a solid defender who made his mark on the national stage with some strong performances in the 2016 Euros. In terms of club career, he plays for Swedish side Hammarby IF. When looking for defensive picks, it might also be worth keeping an eye on Hörður Magnússon. The young Bristol City player missed out on the Euros action, but has already proved to be a promising selection—even scoring goals for both Bristol and Iceland.
Iceland’s captain Gunnarsson is an experienced midfielder and sturdy DFS pick. After all, he led his country during their impressive displays in both the Euros and the World Cup qualifiers. He plays for Cardiff City in his club career, so he’s no stranger to British football. The club actually awarded him Player of the Year in April.
The top goal scorer on the current team, Sigþórsson is an impressive striker who plays for French club Nantes. However, after sustaining a serious knee injury in 2016, Sigþórsson underwent surgery from which he has still not recovered. He’s been out of action for the entire 2017 season and it is not yet clear if he will be fit for the World Cup. We’ve included him in our picks because, if he is selected, he’ll certainly be one to watch. Fingers crossed!
FIFA Ranking: 22
Manager: Heimir Hallgrímsson
Facing Argentina in your first game is quite the introduction to World Cup football!
What They Have Going for Them
- As you can tell from the video above, their supporters are loyal and fierce. During the Euros, it is estimated that 10% of the country showed up to cheer on the team. The World Cup is likely to draw an even bigger following—we just hope someone stays behind to watch the island!
- While they’ve drawn some major names at the group stage, it certainly doesn’t look impossible for them to progress. That underdog status can work to a team’s advantage and something tells us that Iceland could cause a few upsets in the competition…
It will be interesting to see how this impressive team measures up against the world class players, many of whom are veterans of this competition. The great thing about football is that anything can happen and the World Cup always treats us to some shock exits and against-all-odds victories. With that in mind, we’re off to practice our thunder clap! Gangi þér vel!