History will be made this Saturday as an Iceland squad featuring Jón Daði Böðvarsson play the first World Cup fixture in their history… what better way to start than by meeting two-time winners Argentina!
That’s the size of the challenge for Böðvarsson and his compatriots – they need to deal with the might of the likes of some of the world’s best attackers, and try to get a result to get off to a positive start in Group D.
As Royals supporters, we have something of a vested interested in Iceland. The island-nation are a lot of people’s ‘second team’ – but our links run pretty deep.
As well as having Böðvarsson in their ranks, two of our former Academy graduates in Gylfi Sigurðsson and Samúel Friðjónsson are in the 23-man squad. And who can forget the impact that Ívar Ingimarsson and Brynjar Gunnarsson had in their day!
Iceland vs Argentina
Spartak Stadium, Moscow
Saturday 16th June, 2pm (UK time)
Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuaín, Sergio Agüero, Paulo Dybala, Ángel Di María… just some of the household names that will be trying to pick holes in the Icelanders’ defence.
It is a nation who have created some of the world’s most exciting attackers – whether Messi sits higher in the list of all-time greats than compatriot Diego Maradona is up for debate… but doubtless it is Argentina’s luxury that the argument is there to be had!
But even in defence, there is strength. Javier Mascherano, Nicolás Otamendi and Marcos Rojo are familiar names in Europe’s highest level, and those are the players that Böðvarsson will be trying to get the better of.
Twice winners of the World Cup in (1978 and 1986) and in the final a further three times, including finishing as runners-up four years ago in Brazil… it’s a formidable test ahead for Iceland.
It’s the first game of a really intriguing group – it’s anyone’s guess who will progress and who will make an early trip home. Croatia and Nigeria meet later the same day (8pm UK time) in Group D.
Iceland qualified by topping a UEFA group which included Croatia – meaning that their World Cup group rivals needed to overcome Greece in the play-offs to reach the finals tournament. Nigeria eased to the top of their CAF group, while Argentina trailed Brazil and Uruguay to book a CONMEBOL spot.
But that’s all in the past; and realistically it won’t be until the dust has settled on the day’s play that the group will begin to take shape and the permutations of the coming games can really be considered!
The Spartak Stadium – or the Otkritie Arena, as it is better known – seats 44,190 spectators and has been home of Russian Premier League side FC Spartak Moscow since it opened in 2014.
It is kitted out in the red and white colours of their tenants, and is scheduled to host four group games in the tournament, as well as one Round of 16 game (potentially involving England).
The game will be broadcast live on ITV in the UK – coverage begins at 1.30pm, in time for a 2pm kick-off.
Team news will be announced on social media approximately 90 minutes ahead of the game – follow @footballiceland on Twitter to see whether Jón Daði Böðvarsson is in the starting XI!