Iceland: The golden generation
Iceland were the darlings of the Euro 2016 tournament for good reason. They were the smallest country to every qualify for a major tournament, and they made the quarterfinals after beating England 2-1, forcing former manager Roy Hodgson to resign.
Iceland qualified for the World Cup for their first time in history, becoming the smallest country to make that competition as well. They’ll take much of the same team that won over the hearts of so many Euro 2016 viewers, which will be key for them in attempting to shock even more people by winning the biggest tournament in the world.
This generation of talent is Iceland’s best in their country’s history; a “Golden Generation” that most national teams have at various points. While their coach, Heimir Hallgrimsson, has a comprehensive understanding of his squad’s strengths, weaknesses and styles of play, the players are not just a bunch of scrappy underdogs.
Iceland’s backline is a veteran-heavy, experienced group that knows how to play together. Their midfield is the team’s strength with stars for their respective clubs — Aron Gunnarsson, Johann Gudmundsson and Gylfi Sigurdsson — playing massive roles. Going forward, Iceland will have to hope for their second leading goal scorer of all time, Kolbeinn Sigborsson, to be fully healthy for the World Cup; something he’s struggled mightily with for his club teams.
Iceland showed just two years ago they can hang with some of the best and biggest teams in the world. They drew 1-1 with eventual winners Portugal in group play and topped their group in World Cup qualifying this year. If there’s ever a time for Iceland to win their first World Cup, it’s 2018.