Iceland’s 23-man football team for the 2018 World Cup was announced yesterday, but wasn’t the squad that many observers had been expecting, Kjarninn reports. Amongst the biggest surprises were two players who have only made three appearances with the national team prior to their World Cup team selection: Twenty-three-year-old Danish-Icelandic goalkeeper Frederik Schram and twenty-two-year-old midfielder Samúel Kári Friðjónsson.
Hólmar Örn Eyjólfsson (defender), Rúrik Gíslason (midfielder), Arnór Ingvi Traustason (midfielder), and Albert Guðmundsson (forward) all made the squad, in spite of speculation that they might be replaced by other players. Given that midfielder Gylfi Sigurðsson and team captain Aron Einar Gunnarsson have long been the backbone of the team, their selection isn’t necessarily surprising, although the fact that they’ve been injured on and off since the 2016 UEFA European Championship has raised some questions about their fitness levels. Forward Kolbeinn Sigþórsson did not make the team, although he is on the reserve list in the event that one of the primary players is unable to play. Team manager Heimir Hallgrímsson says that the World Cup is simply happening too soon for Kolbeinn, who was injured in the Euro Cup two years ago.
Goalkeeping coach Guðmundur Hreiðarsson said that the choice not to include Ingvar Jónsson and Ögmund Kristinsson, both of whom have been on the national team in recent years, was a difficult one. But after their recent friendly matches in the US, it was clear that Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson and Frederik Schram had to be the team’s backup keepers.
Heimir explained that relative newbie Samúel Kári was chosen not only because he'd done very well with Under-21 national team, but also because he’s a great runner and can play many different positions. He also commented on the selection of twenty-year-old forward Albert Guðmundsson, saying that the young player had really blown the coaching staff away and brought different qualities to the squad than the other team forwards.
Iceland’s Official World Cup Squad:
Goalkeepers: Hannes Þór Halldórsson, Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson, Frederik Schram
Defenders: Kári Árnason, Ari Freyr Skúlason, Ragnar Sigurðsson, Hörður Björgvin Magnússon, Birkir Már Sævarsson, Sverrir Ingi Ingason, Hólmar Örn Eyjólfsson
Midfielders: Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson, Birkir Bjarnason, Arnór Ingvi Traustason, Emil Hallfreðsson, Gylfi Sigurðsson, Ólafur Ingi Skúlason, Rúrik Gíslason, Samúel Kári Friðjónsson, Aron Einar Gunnarsson
Forwards: Alfreð Finnbogason, Jón Daði Böðvarsson, Björn Bergmann Sigurðarson, Albert Guðmundsson
Heimir can call upon replacements from a 35 man squad.
Iceland will play two friendly fixtures on home soil as part of their preparations for the World Cup. The matches will take place on the June 2nd, versus Norway, and on June 7th versus Ghana. During the Group Stage of the World Cup, Iceland will play Argentina, Nigeria, and Croatia.