World Cup Stories: The Smallest Country in the Finals
The smallest nation to qualify for the world cup in terms of population with only 330,000 people living in the country is Iceland. Oh yes you heard that right, even the population in Lagos, a state in Nigeria, is more than the entire population in Iceland that says a lot about a country and it is even extraordinary that a country with such a population four years ago was around the 130s in the world and fast forward this year and they are around the 30s in the FIFA world ranking.
In 2016, Iceland came into prominence in the UEFA cup when they took the games by storm beating England along the way and only losing to the host in the Quarter finals. That effectively announced the small nation to the world and everyone noticed the underdogs. But they were not done there. After the co-manager Lars Lagerback resigned straight after the Euro finals, no one gave the dentist cum Manager Hallgrimsson any chance. It was like he was destined to fail but he took the team, fine-tuned them and qualified them for the world cup. Oh yes! a practicing Dentist took the smallest nation to the world cup and did one better drew with Argentina with their abundance of talent including one of the greatest of all times Lionel Messi. It is amazing, and it shows once again nothing is impossible if you believe, put in the hard-work, persistence and dedication.
It did not just happen for Iceland, they had a deliberate plan even with the financial crisis that hit the nation. Iceland has based its football surge on building football ‘houses” because of a climate which is tough, although not as harsh as many might imagine. There are 11 football houses at present, containing a full field, changing rooms, medical facilities, stands etc and some hold thousands of spectators. It is amazing to say the least.
The unheralded squad includes 32-year-old goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson, a film director who directed the video for Iceland’s entry in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. Halldorsson starred in the initial 1-1 draw with Portugal, making eight saves and setting his team on a path to the knockout stage. Icelandic film studio SagaFilm has a job waiting for him when his football career is over.
Wondering why all the squad members’ names end with sson or ssen? There are no surnames or family names in Iceland – Icelanders use the traditional Nordic naming system, which includes a last name that is comprised from their father’s (or mother’s) first name with the addition of -daughter or -son. Now you know.
So let us support this team of amazing men who have defiled all odds to be here and encourage them to heights never imagined.
My name is Tobi and I bring you the un-usual, yet amazing stories of the world cup stay with me.