The other day I saw an ad on the social medias that wasn’t about Cambridge Analytica, but was for some liquor stating that due to the United States not qualifying for the World Cup we should all be rooting for Iceland. Now, I found this quite peculiar, because I’m fairly sure Iceland is in the United States because I have passed by it on my way to teach numerous times.
Iceland is located entirely in New Hyde Park, NY, in western Nassau County, just outside New York City’s limits. Even though they consist entirely of an ice rink and its parking lot, their team, the IceCats, with a logo that’s definitely not an bootleg/old Florida Panthers logo,
has managed to make the World Cup in Russia, although I guess a hockey team could compete well considering the Russian winter. Except it’ll be the summer in Russia, so being that out of their element will probably hinder their chances.
But hey, if the Vegas Golden Knights can make the Stanley Cup Final their first year in the league, and if Leicester can win the Premier League that one time, and if Wigan can beat Manchester City in an FA Cup matchup with a player named Max Power (no seriously, that is not a joke), then why can’t an amateur hockey team from Long Island shock the world on lesser footy’s biggest stage?
Hang on, I’m getting something in my earpiece.
(Even though he covers the earpiece with his finger, the words “Not the ice rink, the country, you dumb shit” can clearly be heard through it.)
So it appears that there may have been a miscommunication. Uh… take two.
Iceland is in the North Atlantic. Its capital city is Reykjavik.
WHICH OF THESE is the nickname for the Icelandic national team?
A. Norðmenn, “Norsemen”
B. Strákarnir okkar, “Our Boys”
C. Liðið, “Our Team”
D. Odin er valinn, “Odin’s Chosen”
The answer is… B! (Although I give myself some points for coming up with D.) Question 2: Does anyone know how to pronounce it?
Iceland is the team that shocked all of Europe two years ago by being the least-populated country to ever qualify for a major competition, Euro 2016. Then they shocked all of Europe some more by making the knockout rounds. And a third time by beating England in the Round of 16. It took the hosts, France, to finally get the Cinderella squad out, eliminating them in the quarterfinals. Perhaps one could chalk this up to the Euros upping from 16 teams to 24, but that would be discounting the rise of the Icelanders. See, two years prior, in 2014, they were on the cusp of making the World Cup in Brazil, making the UEFA playoffs but losing to Croatia. So in that case, Iceland’s Euro success was building on the success of that near-miss in the World Cup. And now that success has blossomed into this, becoming the least-populated country to qualify for the World Cup. That population is estimated, by the way, at around 350,000, which would put them on par with Honolulu, HI, the 56th-most populous city.
They did that by going 7–1–2 in their group, winning it and earning the automatic qualification that comes with a group win, their only two losses at Croatia and at Finland. And impressively, even though their home ground Laugardalsvöllur has a max capacity of about 15,000, they won every match in Reykjavik. For their efforts Heimir Hallgrímsson’s group, ranked 22nd in the world by FIFA, are placed in Group D, which also holds the mighty Argentines, the Super Eagles of Nigeria, and their rivals, Croatia. Their matches:
vs. Argentina, June 16th, 9:00 Eastern (16:00 local), Moscow
vs. Nigeria, June 22nd, 11:00 Eastern (18:00 local), Volgograd
vs. Croatia, June 2, 14:00 Eastern (21:00 local), Rostov-On-Don
Not exactly the easiest match to start their campaign, getting one of the best teams in the world with one of the two best players in the world. Nigeria is a little bit more forgiving of a matchup, so it may ultimately come down once again to Iceland and Croatia, this time for a spot in the knockout rounds.
I’m going to say 4 points (1–1–1), but a draw with Croatia means they lose out on goal differential and finish third in the group.
And now an Icelandic hymn to close out the segment. From a train station!
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