By Hanifat Mustapha:
Icelandic Football Association President Guðni Bergsson is confident that the team can get to the knockout rounds of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia like they did in the 2016 European Championship in France.
Iceland got to the knockout phase of the 2016 European Championship in France without losing any of their Group F matches before losing to France in the last eight.
The underdogs, who are going into their first World Cup, are drawn in the same Russia 2018 group as Nigeria, Croatia and Argentina.
“Getting into the World Cup is one of the most important events in the history of the whole of Iceland,” Bergsson told Russian News Agency TASS.
“We have a rather complicated group, but two years ago we already surprised the whole football community with a performance at the European Championships in France, and now we are ready to repeat.
“I cannot imagine how far our team will go in the World Cup, but I can say with certainty that those players who will go to Russia will play with the heart and with all their heart.”
The federation has chosen Gelendzhik as the team’s base during the forthcoming tournament and the former Bolton Wanderers player feels the resort town will enhance the team’s performance in the tournament.
“Before the final choice, we allocated two bases for ourselves, the first one in Rostov-on-Don and the second one in Gelendzhik. We originally planned that we would be based in the southern cluster, so that the team could thoroughly prepare for the matches. After visiting the base in Gelendzhik, all other options have disappeared: it is perfectly equipped with all the most necessary for preparation and the location in the mountains and proximity to the sea will add to our national team of energy,” he said.
“Another factor in the choice of the base is the close proximity to the cities of matches in the group stage, so long-term flights will not be a problem for our team, especially since we used to fly long distances when playing matches of the qualifying round .. In my opinion, for all teams this should not be a problem, because you need to come and play football, and not think about flights.
“At the moment, 80% of the (ticket) quota is bought; I can say that the fans of the Icelandic team will be no less than at the European Championships and about 20% of the total population of the country. Many plan their holidays even for the sake of one match in Russia and, in my opinion , it’s great, I’m absolutely sure that everyone who comes to Russia will get maximum pleasure and enjoy the beauties of Russian nature and learn the true Russian hospitality.”
TIceland will begin their World Cup campaign on June 16 against Argentina at the Otkrite Arena before facing Nigeria on June 22 at the Volgograd Arena and Croatia on June 26 in Rostov-on-Don.