Iceland face Nigeria on Friday in a crucial 2018 World Cup group D game at the Volgograd Arena. The match will serve as second group game for both teams with Nigeria knowing that a win is non-negotiable.
They face an Icelandic side which has consistently punched above their weights for the past two years. An inaugural European Championship qualification was matched by a respectable quarter final finish at the tournament in 2016.
Coached by Heimir Hallgrimsson, Iceland qualified for their first World Cup appearance in 2017 and their heroics have led to continued reference about their humble footballing background after a credible draw against Argentina last Saturday.
Our Chief Football Writer, Fisayo Dairo who is in Volgograd ahead of Friday’s encounter sought to correct some exaggerated impressions about the team.
www.aclsports.com spoke with Icelandic football journalist in Kristinn Pall Teitsson who laid some of the viral ‘FACTS’ to rest by appropriately updating the ones that needed updates.
1. First choice keeper was a former film director
Hannes Halldorsson, the goalkeeper who saved Lionel Messi’s penalty was a film director before he turned professional goalkeeper. He now does it as a hobby and helped in directing a Coca-Cola advert for Iceland before this 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia tournament.
2. Iceland league is a semi-professional league but players in Russia play professionally
For a league played inside domes due to harsh weather conditions, players are allowed to have other vocations apart from football although they earn salaries from the round leather game.
However, Birkir Saevarsson is the only player playing at home among the twenty three players in Russia. He returned to serial league Champions Valur in 2017 from a stint in Sweden.
By extension, the remaining twenty-two players are now professional footballers playing abroad. Midfielder Olafur Skulasson has however also agreed a deal to return home to join KR Reykjavik.
3. Team’s head coach was a dentist
As part of the semi-professional nature of football in Iceland, Mr Hallgrimsson continued his dentist work while serving as assistant to Lars Largerback but has since quit his dentist job having taken the job on a full-time basis, although retaining his office.
“He has his office but he doesn’t go there again. Except maybe he wants to wind down and take his mind off football and that will be once in a month, maximum,” said Teitsson to www.aclsports.com