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World Cup contender Iceland emerges as 2018's Cinderella story: What to know about the team

Status at the Madrid box remaining 12 months along with his palms outstretched, Iceland football captain Aron Gunnarsson paused and regarded up towards his lovers within the stadium, all status in a identical stance, palms ready top within the air. Slowly, his palms immediately, Gunnarsson waited till two drum beats sounded sooner than bringing his palms in combination over his head, grunting because the “thunderclap” reverberated all the way through the stadium.

In combination, lovers and Icelandic gamers alike, persevered the mantra, getting sooner and louder with each and every repetition.


Iceland defeated Kosovo in October 2017 within the Eu Championship to solidify its spot within the 2018 International Cup, turning into the smallest group to take action. And when the key football event kicks off on June 14, it’s going to be the primary time ever Iceland has ever competed within the storied International Cup.

Previous, within the Euro 2016, Iceland surprised football lovers because it defeated England, an enormous embarrassment for the Eu group. And that used to be when that “Viking chant” become well-known.

Learn on for a take a look at the Iceland group and the way it were given to be this 12 months’s Cinderella contender.

A take a look at the group

A film director, goalkeeper Hannes Halldórsson is the No. 1 participant for Iceland, his movie profession placed on dangle for now. However he used to be at the back of a climatic International Cup Coca-Cola industrial with the thunderclap sounds very obvious.

“We would have liked to make an commercial that touched the folks,” he mentioned in a observation to the Reykjavik Grapevine, an Icelandic mag. “An commercial that may remind everybody that we’re in this adventure in combination. There could also be most effective 11 gamers at the box, however we by no means really feel by myself — we really feel that each one Icelanders are status at the back of us.”

Status beside Halldórsson at the Icelandic group is defenders Ragnar Sigurðsson and Kári Árnason — who travelled round Thailand in combination in the summertime of 2015. At midfield for Iceland is captain Aron Gunnarsson, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson and Gylfi Sigurðsson, who additionally is available in every so often at ahead.

Guðmundsson, too, has an artistic facet outdoor of football: he performs guitar in a rock band.


The group is coached via Heimir Hallgrímsson, who additionally runs a dental surgical procedure sanatorium in a small Icelandic the city. On the Euro 2016, Hallgrímsson used to be assistant trainer however used to be promoted to steer the group forward of the International Cup.

A novel trainer, Hallgrímsson is understood for assembly up with lovers at a Reykjavik bar sooner than house video games to speak technique.

However the group fandom isn’t entire with out Guðmundur Benediktsson. He’s now not a trainer or participant — these days — however his enthusiasm and dedication to the group used to be obvious after the commentator went viral for his shrieks of pleasure after Iceland scored in a 2016 win over Austria.

FILE - In this Nov. 19, 2013, file photo, Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson, left, is challenged by Croatia's Luka Modric during their World Cup qualifying playoff second leg soccer match in Zagreb, Croatia. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic,File)

Iceland’s Aron Gunnarsson, left, is challenged via Croatia’s Luka Modric all through their International Cup qualifying playoff in 2013.

 (AP Photograph/Darko Bandic)

“That is completed! That is completed! We’re going to Paris! Did you spot that? Did you spot that? By no means wake me from this superb dream,” Benediktsson shouted, in step with a translation from The Dad or mum.

“Boo as you favor England! Iceland goes to Stade de France on Sunday. France Iceland! You’ll move house. You’ll move out of Europe. You’ll move anywhere the hell you need,” he mentioned.

Ranked No. 22 via FIFA, that is Iceland’s first International Cup look, representing a rustic of most effective about 330,000 population who’re used to dwelling in a snowy local weather for far of the 12 months. It additionally debuted new kits — or jerseys — for the event.

“We will be able to by no means return on pronouncing, ‘Oh, we’re too small to visit the International Cup,’ or, ‘We’re too small to get to the Euros.’ As a result of we’ve completed it,” Gunnarsson has mentioned, in step with The Los Angeles Instances. “And if you do it in combination, the rest is conceivable in soccer.”

“You don’t become bored with the questions,” he persevered. “It’s how it’s. We all know the place we stand. We all know what we’re. It’s important to earn the precise to play soccer. And that’s what we’re doing this present day.”


It used to be greater than 20 years in the past when officers with Iceland’s nationwide football federation toured a Norwegian coaching middle and took notes to duplicate this system, The Los Angeles Instances reported. Through 2011, it had totally overhauled its training program, and the group headed to the UEFA league’s Below 21 Championship in Europe, the newspaper reported.

“We move into the contest with the realization that we should be there, like somebody else,” mentioned Hallgrímsson. “Why must we predict one thing else? We have now trust in ourselves. We all know what we’re about.”

He persevered, “And that’s the power of the squad: they know precisely what we’re about. We’re now not looking to be one thing else. And finally, that will likely be our power.”

In its first fit of the event, Iceland will face Argentina.

American fandom 

With out Staff USA competing within the International Cup, American bars and football lovers have “followed” Iceland as its group. Denver’s Celtic on Marketplace pub has mentioned it’s going to be the “hub for the Iceland nationwide group” all the way through the event because it companions with quite a lot of Icelandic merchandise, together with: Reyka Vodka, Icelandair and Icelandic Glacial Water.

In step with the Denver Put up, when Iceland certified for the International Cup remaining 12 months, profitable the hearts of many football lovers, the Celtic tavern’s normal supervisor Noel Hickey in reality reached out to the Icelandic consulate.

“A large number of groups have roughly fell in love with them, and I used to be certainly one of them,” Hickey mentioned, noting that such a lot of different groups have followed Iceland’s iconic Viking clap birthday celebration.

“Those guys, they had been out fishing two years in the past, and now they’re within the International Cup. It’s completely an implausible tale,” he mentioned.

Reyka Vodka, too, is trying to win over Icelandic lovers within the U.S. with quite a lot of watch events in Ny all through the group’s video games. The events will come with cocktails and minutiae — and when Iceland takes on Nigeria on June 22, supporters can mingle with Vikings at Legends pub.

“The U.S. can in point of fact get into it in accordance with the truth that it’s the underdog tale,” Reyka Vodka spokesman Trevor Schneider advised Fox Information.

The Related Press contributed to this record.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox Information. Apply her on Twitter @K_Schallhorn.

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