Iceland, the land of fire and ice, is the next team on our list, as the debutants will play in the Group D along with Argentina, Croatia, and Nigeria. The Our Boys will start their first ever FIFA World Cup campaign against Argentina on June 16th, 2018, at Spartak Stadium in Moscow as massive +800 underdogs, while six days later, Iceland will meet Nigeria at Volgograd Arena in Volgograd as slight +160 favorites. On June 26th, 2018, the Our Boys face Croatia at Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don in their final match of the group phase which could easily be a decisive one, while the markets on the Over/Under 2.5 Goals are set at +130/-167.
After a huge impact at EURO 2016 when they reached the Quarter-Finals, Iceland became the smallest country by population to ever qualify for the FIFA World Cup, while the bookies set them as +250 underdogs to reach the second round, as the competition in the Group D looks pretty stiff. However, the Our Boys are well-known for their upsets in the last couple of years, so they will certainly disregard the odds, and just play their own game which is sometimes enough even to beat the strongest teams in the world.
Winner: +20000 at Bet365 Sportsbook
To Reach Semi-Finals: +2500
To Reach Quarter-Finals: +1000
Group Qualifying Yes/No: +250 / -350
Group Phase Matches:
|Iceland||Argentina||+800||+350||-275||+115 / -150|
|Iceland||Nigeria||+160||+190||+200||+135 / -175|
|Iceland||Croatia||+333||+250||-120||+130 / -167|
Iceland has a plenty of experienced players who perform in the strongest national championships in Europe, while all these guys are playing together in their national team for a long time. The biggest star of this generation is surely the 28-year old playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson (55 caps, 18 goals) who plays for Everton in the English Premier League, and Gylfi is a go-to-guy in this team who orchestrate the play from the midfield, while he’s particularly dangerous from the free-kicks. The captain Aron Gunnarsson (76 caps, 2 goals) is another key player in the midfield, and his energy and high work-rate are essential for this Iceland team, while Johann Gudmundsson (63 caps, 7 goals) from Burnley is a great danger with his crosses and passing.
The 31-year old centre-back Ragnar Sigurdsson (74 caps, 3 goals) is a heart of Iceland’s defense along with the goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson (48 caps) who’s always on the highest level in the national team jersey. At the front, the 27-year old striker Alfred Finnbogason (45 caps, 11 goals) will get his place in the starting eleven, while his colleague Jon Dadi Bodvarsson will wait for the chance off the bench. The head coach Helmir Hallgrimsson prefers a 4-5-1 formation, and he’s quite rigid with his tactical ideas forcing the direct style of play with a lot of counter-attacks.
The road to 2018 World Cup: Iceland qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia after finishing at the top of the European qualification Group I table with 22 points, a 7-1-2 record, and a 16:7 goal difference, ahead of Croatia, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland, and Kosovo, while seven out of their ten matches had less than three goals in the total. Iceland was perfect on the home soil winning all five encounters with a 10:2 goal difference, while on the road, they’ve recorded two victories, a 1-1 stalemate at Ukraine, and two losses against Croatia (2-0), and Finland (1-0) with a 6:5 goal difference. However, they’ve played their best football in the last three matches, beating Ukraine, Turkey, and Kosovo one after the other without conceding a single goal.
Gains: The team spirit is the most powerful weapon of this Iceland team, as they are never afraid of their opponents, while their mentality is brilliant in the toughest moments. Sometimes, they literally play from their minds and souls, looking incredibly disciplined on the pitch.
Shortcomings: This Iceland team has a pretty limited technique, and besides Gylfi Sigurdsson there is no other true master in the squad, while the short bench could be a huge problem if they struggle with injuries.
Players to Watch: Gylfi Sigurdsson, Johann Gudmundsson, Alfred Finnbogason
Top Goalscorer: Gylfi Sigurdsson +15000, Alfred Finnbogason +50000
MY PICK: Iceland vs. Nigeria Both Teams to Score YES (-106) – while Argentina is a huge favorite to reach the second round, Iceland will try to get some points against Nigeria and Croatia, while their second match of the group phase against the Super Eagles could be crucial for Iceland’s destiny in the tournament. It could be also a decisive match for Nigeria, so I’m backing the goals on both sides here.
ADDITIONAL PICK: Iceland vs. Croatia Both Teams to Score YES (+105) – this is the last game of the group stage, while these two sides know each other very well, so I think we’ll see an open flow match with plenty of scoring chances in front of each goalkeeper.
Against the Odds: Iceland to Reach the Round of 16 (+250) – I’ve already mentioned a tricky competition in the Group D, while the Our Boys are specialized in making huge upsets, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Iceland in the second round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. However, if they qualify from the second spot, France is the most likely opponent in the Round of 16, which should be the end of the road for a brave Iceland team.