Thunderclaps and Ronaldo: Iceland’s incredible rise to international success

Had circumstances been different, and Harry Kane wasn’t taking corners, I may well be writing about how England won the Euros in 2016. Instead, I am talking about Iceland. A country with a population of just over 300,000 and a national team just 71 years old. Fun fact, the country is home to 14x more people than Iceland Foods currently employ.

What is there to be said about such a diminutive country both geographically and in the football world? Well, before two years ago, not an awful lot. But since 2016, Iceland have enjoyed a mesmeric rise on the international stage, qualifying for consecutive major tournaments, having previously never qualified for the World Cup or European Championships in their 71 year history.

When Cristiano Ronaldo is quoted talking about your footballing style, however derogitory he may have been about it, you know you are making an impact. After Iceland drew 1-1 with eventual champions Portugal in their Euro 2016 opener, Ronaldo bitterly stated: “I thought they’d won the Euros the way they celebrated at the end”. A frosty response, having been kept at bay by the rigid Iceland unit.

Iceland qualified from group F with an unbeaten record ahead of a morose Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal. This earned them a round of 16 tie against Roy Hodgson’s England and what happened next was truly unprecedented. In the 4th minute of said game, England were awarded a penalty and, lo and behold, we scored it! Some say that was the most absurd thing that happened that day. For the 300,000+ Icelanders, they were thunderclapping their way through to the quarter-finals as they overcame the early deficit against an apologetic England side.

Unfortunately, this is where their remarkable journey ended as a red-hot France team thawed the heroic Icelanders. Fast forward two years, and Iceland have qualified for their first ever World Cup finals. Unfortunately, they have been pitted against World Cup regulars Croatia and Argentina along with an exciting Nigeria side and it will take another momentous performance to recreate the heroics of 2016.

28 DAYS TO GO!

Officially the 28th best team in the World, Senegal will be hoping to repeat their successes in the 2002 edition. 16 years ago, Senegal went unbeaten in the group stages and famously beat a world-class France side 1-0.

In what will be only their second ever World Cup appearance, Senegal have been pitted in Group H this time round, along with Japan, Colombia and Poland. They will rely on Liverpool’s talisman Saido Mane to steer them out of this tricky group and repeat their successes of 2002.

Hot or Not: World Cup Kits ranked!

Home nation not qualify for the tournament? Drawn an underdog in the office sweepstake? Or just an aficionado of international kits. Well look no further for shirt ideas. After being put through our rigorous testing process, we have selected 11 of the most noteworthy strips which will not go unnoticed at this year’s World Cup, ranking them from worst to best.

11. Russia

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Can I just say, I’ve seen more effort been put into university kits. Russia are hosting the WORLD CUP for the first time ever, and they’ll be defending their home turf sporting this sorry excuse for a strip. Must try harder.

10. EGYPT

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Egypt did very well to make the World Cup, granted. But if they had told us this is what they would be wearing once they got there, I’m sure most would’ve told them not to bother. If only they had put as much effort into their kit as they did in qualifying, they may be higher up this list. Even Mo Salah won’t look good in this. Bore off.

9. Switzerland

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A very unique design as the pattern attempts to reflect the country’s mountainous regions. But Switzerland certainly haven’t peaked with this kit and will hope for a less rocky competition. Sorry.

8. Belgium

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Is it a Christmas Jumper? Is it a golf jumper? No. It’s Belgium’s new home kit for the World Cup. This design has no place in football and clearly the folk at Adidas didn’t get the memo. Would imagine Thomas Pieters and your grandma are eyeing this one up for next year’s Ryder Cup and Christmas dinner, respectively.

7. Spain

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After an embarrassing display in Brazil four years ago, Spain are out for redemption this time round and this isn’t the way to go about it. Good effort at recreating a retro kit, but simply mimicking the kit of the glory days will not put trophies back in the cabinet. It’s like when a six-year-old puts on a ‘Ronaldo 9’ jersey and suddenly thinks he can play like him. Grow up, Spain, that’s not how it works.

6. Argentina

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*ADIDAS BOARDROOM MEETING*

Boss: “This is Messi’s last ever World Cup, we need an iconic kit to suit the occasion.”

Intern: “Why don’t we just use the same kit they’ve worn for the last 70 years?”

*Offers intern the job*

About time Argentina’s creativity on the pitch was reciprocated in their kit design department.

5. Germany

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Who doesn’t love a throwback kit? In tribute to the World Cup winning side of 1990, Germany have recreated their classic kit that oozes class. Looking forward to the tear-stained edition of this strip after England knock them out in the quarter-finals. Probably.

4. Japan

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Whilst Adidas have favoured the retro look for many of their kits this year, they didn’t have this luxury with Japan as they only competed in their first World Cup 20 years ago. A sleek design nonetheless and one of the most modern looking kits at the tournament, as they attempt to outdo their rivals in a colourful Group H.

3. Peru

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Umbro … take a bow, son. After designing some of England’s most iconic kits, the classic brand has turned its attentions to the vibrant South America and look what they have pulled out the bag. In typical Umbro fashion, they have simplified an iconic design and created this absolute masterpiece that simply screams quality. Bravo.

2. Nigeria 

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Love it or hate it, this is the sort of flair I want to see in a World Cup kit. Reminiscent of that guy in PE who was always the worst at every sport, but his parents had a bit of money so always turned up with the flashiest clothes. A very brave effort from an exciting side, best of luck to them.

  1. Colombia

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After what was quite frankly an embarrassing excuse for a kit at the last World Cup, Colombia have come out all guns blazing and taken it back to basics this time round. If neutrals were to back a team based on their kit alone, I’m sure Colombia would have an expansive fan base. Paying homage to their classic Italia ’90 kit, this jersey has stolen the show and, win or lose, there will be countless players demanding to swap shirts with the Colombians this year.