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World Cup Preview: Iceland

Iceland will be everyone’s second favourite team at the global showcase? HOOOOOO!!!!

France v Iceland - Quarter Final: UEFA Euro 2016 Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

A full preview is a bit outside the Royal Blue Mersey scope, but everyone loves the World Cup. As such, we’re going to take a few days to preview each team that named an Everton player in their squad. Next up: Iceland.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Hannes Halldorsson (Randers), Runar Runarsson (Nordsjaelland), Frederik Schram (Roskilde).
Defenders: Kari Arnason (Aberdeen), Holmar Eyjolfsson (Levski Sofia), Rurik Gislason (Sandhausen), Sverrir Ingason (Rostov), Hordur Magnusson (Bristol City), Birkir Saevarsson (Valur), Ragnar Sigurdsson (Rostov), Ari Skulason (Lokeren).
Midfielders: Birkir Bjarnason (Aston Villa), Samuel Fridjonsson (Valerenga), Johann Gudmundsson (Burnley), Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff City), Emil Hallfredsson (Udinese), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton), Olafur Skulason (Karabukspor), Arnor Traustason (Malmo).
Forwards: Jon Bodvarsson (Reading), Alfred Finnbogason (Augsburg), Albert Gudmundsson (PSV), Bjorn Sigurdarson (Rostov).
Reserves: Andri Bjarnason (Helsingborgs), Elmar Bjarnason (Elazigspor), Kjartan Finnbogason (Horbens), Jon Fjoluson (Norrkoping), Hjortur Hermannsson (Brondby), Ingvar Jonsson (Sandefjord), Vidar Kjartansson (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Ogmundur Kristinsson (Excelsior), Elias Omarsson (Gothenburg), Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (Nantes), Runar Sigurjonsson (St Gallen, on loan from Grasshoppers), Arnor Smarason (Hammarby).

System

Iceland have tended to adopted the 4-5-1 formation against stronger teams, which usually means most sides they play against. This gives manager Heimir Hallgrímsson the option to get his two best players - Gunnarsson and Sigurdsson - on the pitch together in central areas of the pitch.

Bjarnason and Jóhann Berg Gudmundsson are the two wingers in that system, and show an impressive work rate with their defensive discipline. Both also have an eye for goal and support lead strikers Bödvarsson and Finnbogason with the former likely to get the starting role for his hard running while the latter is one of the better forwards in the Bundesliga.

Iceland World Cup Starting Lineup
LineupBuilder.com

Strengths

Despite a disappointing season at Everton for Sigurdsson, everything good for the Icelanders goes through the attacking midfielder. He has been at his talented and creative best when wearing his national team colours and will bear the burden of being the team’s engine.

After announcing their arrival at the global stage at Euro 2016, the thunderclap crew followed that up with World Cup qualification built on hard work and solid team defence.

Weaknesses

This team is only limited in skill, and will struggle in a group that has gamebreakers littered across all three sides. But as we saw at the last Euro, when they’re playing together as a unit anything can happen.

X-Factor

Jóhann Berg Gudmundsson was a big reason for Burnley’s Europa League qualification and the player has the skills package to be a real threat down the right wing. The left-footed player is always a threat to cut inside and shoot on his stronger foot, and displays good defensive awareness too.

France v Iceland - Quarter Final: UEFA Euro 2016 Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Everton Angle

The Blues will be hoping that a good tournament at the world stage will spark Sigurdsson when he returns to Premier League action next season. With Wayne Rooney leaving the club, Gylfi becomes Everton’s undisputed #10 and he really needs to get is confidence back after a long injury layoff as well.

Group Stage Schedule

Iceland vs Argentina | Moscow |June 16 | 10:00 AM EST/3:00 PM BST
Iceland vs Nigeria | Volgograd | June 22 | 11:00 AM EST/4:00 PM BST
Iceland vs Croatia | Rostov | June 26 | 2:00 PM EST/7:00 PM BST

Prediction

Out in the Group Stages. Iceland will find Argentina have too much firepower for them, and though they finished ahead of Croatia in qualification, at the biggest stage they will likely struggle to beat them. Which leaves a Nigeria squad in a bit of disarray who they have a good chance of beating to finish third in the group.