It has been a remarkable few years for Iceland as they have climbed from being ranked 131st by FIFA just six years ago to being ranked the 22nd best international side in the world. Now they are set to feature in their first ever World Cup and will be hoping to repeat their impressive performances in the 2016 European Championships.
Before they can get too excited about this summer’s trip to Russia, they first have plenty of preparations to do and that begins with this weekend’s friendly match against Norway. Even though they failed to qualify for this summer’s festivities, the visitors will be no easy ride and they come into this match having claimed a couple of friendly wins in March and experienced head coach Lars Lagerback will be keen to maintain the momentum.
Iceland made a huge impression at Euro 2016 after they progressed from their pool and famously defeated England in the first knockout round. A quarter-final exit to France was built on by a decent World Cup qualifying campaign which saw them register seven wins from 10 games.
Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria await at Russia 2018, but the smallest nation by population ever to reach the finals goes into that tournament with a settled side and have proven in their last few games that they have the firepower to cause trouble for any opposition. Their last four matches have all finished with over 2.5 goals scored.
Norway could only manage fourth place in their World Cup qualifying group, picking up 13 points from 10 fixtures in a section featuring Germany, Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic. They did, however, close the campaign with an 8-0 romp away to San Marino and then a 1-0 home win over Northern Ireland.
Although they were disappointing in their friendlies following the conclusion of qualifying, March’s 4-1 triumph over Australia and 1-0 victory in Albania got things back on track. The visitors will also be fully confident heading into a match with opposition they frequently get the better of, and we think that they may look to try and make a statement against a side who has qualified for this summer’s World Cup whilst they have to watch from home.
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Norway have an excellent record in the head to head between these two sides with 18 wins, five draws and seven defeats. The sides last met in a 3-2 Norway win in a friendly back in 2016.
Elmar Bjarnson and Kolbeinn Sigporsson did not make the cut for the 23 man squad going to Russia and will not feature in the preparations this weekend.
Defender Omar Elabdellaoui and striker Alexander Soderlund will be disappointed not to have made the cut for this summer’s friendly matches and will see it as a blow to their international future.