Iceland, who created a sensation by reaching the quarterfinals at Euro 2016, is aiming to perform even better at the FIFA World Cup in Russia, team manager Heimir Hallgrimsson has said.
“We played in the quarterfinals [at Euro 2016] and lost 5-2 against France. Maybe our goals were too low?” Hallgrimsson said. “I’m not going to say we’re going to win the World Cup now, but at least we are aware of that in our heads. We plan to stay here a little bit longer than maybe we did at the Euros.”
Recalling Iceland’s historic 2-1 win over England at Euro-2016, the coach said: “If you’re on your good day, you can beat almost anyone. And we’ve shown it through the years. If we have a good game we, at least, have a chance against good football nations.” “The boys have shown that the bigger the event, the more focused and disciplined and better they play,” he added.
Foresight is essential for a good manager and Hallgrimsson, who was speaking to RT ahead of the FIFA World Cup draw at the Kremlin on Friday, was able to guess one of his team’s rivals at Russia 2018. “Small European nations like Iceland don’t get a chance to play big nations like Argentina or Brazil,” he complained, with Iceland, eventually, being drawn against a tough trio of Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria.
Hallgrimsson said that Iceland has already selected the location for its base during the World Cup, which runs from June 14 to July 15, 2018, opting for the famous Black Sea resort of Geledzhik, not far from Sochi. “Good weather. Icelanders love good weather. We stay normally in cold weather, so we like the warmth. And it’s a good facility,” he said, explaining the choice.
It’s going to be the first-ever World Cup for the small island nation, which has a population of just over 300,000. The Icelanders are looking to spend as much time as possible at home during the preparations. “That’s the best period of the year, June. It’s good to be in Iceland. The players are all playing abroad. So they also like to stay in Iceland. It’s a relaxing factor before the excitement in Russia,” the coach said.
As for Iceland’s rivals in friendly matches in the run-up to the World Cup, the country will be looking for fixtures with African and South American teams. “We’ve played so few games against teams from outside Europe. So that was the preference in the games. Just to play a different style of football opponents,” Hallgrimsson said.