Minnows no longer. Iceland might be small in every sense but they arrive at their first World Cup on merit alone, having knocked Croatia into second place during qualifying.
The Scandinavians lost just one fixture in the entire campaign, winning seven and drawing two. It is a remarkable achievement, the crowning glory of a stellar decade.
It could all have been so different, however, had Alfred Finnbogason not scored the most crucial goal of his career.
Trailing Finland 2-1 in the first home game in qualifying, the Augsburg striker nipped in for a crucial equaliser. When Ragnar Sigurdsson secured victory at the death, the momentum from Euro 2016 kept rolling.
Inevitably in a team that’s mired in mid-table, Finnbogason has struggled to garner much attention in the Bundesliga this year. 12 goals in 23 games is more than decent, though, with the 29-year-old having lodged hattricks against Freiburg and Koln.
Finnbogason won his first international cap in 2010 when he was still plying his trade in Kópavogur with Bredablik.
He was a constant fixture during Lars Lagerback’s historic tenure, routinely first choice as he scored hatfuls with Rosenberg and Heerenveen.
In fact, Finnbogason played every game for his country at Euro 2016, apart from the infamous 2-1 victory over Roy Hodgson’s England.
In this tournament, the Augsburg forward won’t be overly concerned about the rearguards of Argentina, Nigeria and Croatia. All three are lacking in defensive superstars and would much prefer to focus on their attacking talents.
Iceland have shown in recent years that they are experts in absorbing pressure, with an unrivalled ability to exploit limited opportunities.
Some may think that the odds of repeating the heroics from two years ago are slimmer but Heimir Hallgrimsson’s men have snared more dangerous rivals than their opponents in Group D.
Finnbogason and his teammates have more than enough to crash the party once again.
Finnbogason’s strengths are many. Despite his prim frame, he is a dominant presence in the air, as useful in defending set pieces as he is lethal finishing them off at the other end.
His comparative lack of bulk makes him more mobile than a player of his height should be. He is technically up to snuff, competent with his back to goal and able to bring teammates routinely into play.
Finnbogason is a cute mover and a ruthless finisher and would probably score even more in Germany were he at a more ambitious club. His goalscoring record speaks of a man that rarely snatches at chances.
That said, Finnbogason is not without weaknesses. Against elite opposition, he can become something of a passenger.
The perception that he is a flat-track bully is somewhat fair: the Icelander failed to score against any of the Bundesliga’s bigger clubs, preferring to pick off opponents in the table’s lower reaches.
He is inconsistent, too, with his goals arriving in streaks and sprees rather than predictable flows. He might arrive in Russia and embark on series of goal-sodden matches but he is equally likely to arrive and offer precious little threat.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group B in the World Cup for Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.
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