From Iceland — #SmiteTheWorld: Iceland's Road To Russia—A Smite News Recap

#SmiteTheWorld: Iceland’s Road To Russia—A Smite News Recap

Published June 7, 2018

Greig Robertson Elías Þórsson
Photo by
Lóa Hlín Hjalmtýsdóttir

Iceland’s World Cup qualification campaign came to a dramatic head in October of 2017, when they beat Kosovo to become the least populous nation ever to qualify for the finals. The months ahead would prove to be an eventful journey, with pre-tournament “unfriendlies,” injury woes, massive international interest, and squad selection dilemmas. Here’s a recap of Iceland’s Road to Russia.

“Unfriendlies” #1—The Quelling Of Qatar
One of the first announcements to come from the Iceland camp was some warm-up games for the international team. However, the idea of “friendlies” doesn’t really apply to Iceland, who know no “friendly” in the heat of battle, and know only how to smite. The first unsuspecting opponent was the national team of Qatar, who would be razed to the ground in a torrent of fiery footballing wrath on November 14th. The newly Iceland-curious world scrambled to find obscure streaming links for the game, which took place in a weirdly empty Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in front of just 2,700 people. It ended in a 1-1 victory for Iceland. JR

Plenty of room on the SmiteWagon
Iceland’s qualification had captured the world’s imagination, and the media was quick to jump on the SmiteWagon. The Washington Post published a review of the qualifying teams entitled “2018 World Cup field set: Iceland’s in, Italy’s out, and compelling storylines abound.” To quote the article: “For those without natural rooting interests, there’s a clear, cuddly choice for adoption.” Cuddly? We are not cuddly, we are hardcore. Our forefathers survived famines and volcanic eruptions. We are not going to the World Cup to get a participation medal, we are going there to defy the odds and conquer nations. We are not puppies, or Dustin from ‘Stranger Things.’ We are fearless conquerors borne of an inhospitable wilderness. And there is nothing cuddly about that.

May the smite be with you: Gylfi Erupts At Everton
Fans of Strákarnir okkar (“our boys,” in English) were concerned for the first few months of the 2017-18 season, as Gylfi “The Viking Virtuoso” Sigurðsson decided to take a brief sabbatical from first-team play after a £45m transfer to Everton FC. Thankfully, he quickly recovered from carrying the whole Swansea team on his back for three seasons, and returned to form. After dispatching a 25-yard-curler in a 3-1 victory against his former side on December 18th, Gylfi added insult to the copious injuries of his former manager Paul Clement, who was given the Blood Eagle by the Swansea board two days after the plundering. GR

“Unfriendlies” #2—The Incineration of Indonesia
On January 11th, the team inflicted a mighty thrashing on Indonesia’s “Select XI” in another pre-World Cup run out. Amidst rumours that the selected XI in question would be nine rhinoceroses in defence, an elephant in goal, and a tiger up front, in the end the opposition turned out to be just 11 hapless Indonesian footballers. Iceland ran riot on a pitch flooded by the tears of the Indonesian nation, netting six times. Shot after flaming shot was smashed into the enemy goal until it was just two smouldering, smashed, smouldering posts with a gibbering, wild-eyed goalkeeper rolling around in the wreckage muttering about the coming of a new ice age. Onwards! JR

The Ice Age Cometh: Iceland arrive in FIFA Top 20
In February, the corrupt sewing circle of FIFA deemed, in their continuing infinite wrongness, that the Icelandic national men’s football team were the 18th best side in the world. It was Iceland’s best ever showing in the FIFA rankings, and they leapfrogged the weaklings of Wales and swine of Sweden into the top twenty footballing nations. While it might seem impressive for a country of 340,000—the 180th most populous country, from 233 in total—to break into the global footballing elite, we at Grapevine felt that this ranking was inaccurate. No other team, for example, rides dragons into battle, or has a training routine that includes wrestling hangry polar bears into submission. We would prove FIFA wrong soon enough. JR

Smite the Kremlin: 20% of Icelanders request World Cup tickets
In March, after the side lost a couple of friendlies to Peru and Mexico whilst blooding young players, it was reported that 66,000 Iceland fans—around 20% of the country’s population—had applied for World Cup tickets. Iceland’s Ambassador to Russia, Berglind Ásgeirsdóttir, said: “This is an indication of a great interest. We are proud to be a participant, representing the least populated country in the history of World Cup.” She was, of course, playing down the masterplan: with a perfect eleven on the field, and a horde of 66,000 in the stands, both the cup and the Kremlin would be there for the taking. JR

We will smite them on the beaches: Gory kit unveiled
Iceland unveiled a new World Cup strip in April. It was a departure from the classic shirt worn during the famous raid on Euro 2016, featuring curious red-speckled sleeves. One Icelandic journalist, Helgi Seljan, perhaps cracked the code of the design: it brought to his mind the Icelandic phrase “Blóðugur upp að öxlum,” or “Blood up to the shoulders.” This aphorism has been used to describe working in butchery, but also, in the distant past, conflict with neighbouring nations. The kit served as a chilling warning to all opposition: step aside, lest ye be smited into several pieces. JR

The horde assembles: Aron to play on bloody stumps
It was the moment we’d all been waiting for. In May, Heimir Hallgrímsson—dentist, drawbridge destroyer, and manager of Iceland’s national football team—announced the final 23-player raiding party that would set sail for Iceland’s appointment with destiny. It was with some relief that we saw the names of Iceland’s injured but talismanic star players Aron Einar Gunnarsson and Gylfi Sigurðsson on the list. Heimir revealed that Gylfi was back in training after an injury; he also said he was optimistic about injured team captain Aron Gunnarsson, who had confirmed over the phone that he would even play on his bloody stumps were both his legs to be cleaved off in battle. So a little knee operation definitely wasn’t about to stop him from leading Iceland to their inevitable World Cup-winning destiny. JR

Read more football stories here. Get your Smite The World T-shirt here.

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!

Show Me More!