It’s time to see if Iceland can secure a place in the World Cup. Having come back from the dead to make the playoffs, it’s the Swiss who stand in their way. They’re just so neutral…
I can recap the last post in two screen caps. I’ve taken Iceland from here:
It’s only October, but I feel like I’ve played a whole season. We’ve overcome impossible odds to finish second in the group, but it’ll count for nothing if we can’t beat Switzerland.
Switzerland 5 Iceland 4. That isn’t the aggregate score, that’s just the first leg. Not the best performance at the back, but the four away goals will stand up in good stead. This is what you get with the 2-3-1-2-2 formation – Ossie Ardiles football.
Can I just pause for a moment to say how much I love this game? Or specifically, rediscovering it during lockdown. At the moment I’m still calling it a late-lockdown indulgence rather than a full blown midlife crisis, but either way it’s swallowing up the hours and the days at an alarming rate. CM9798 screenshots are starting to outnumber pictures of my kids on my desktop, and I lay awake at night thinking about how I’ll get the best out of the Jean-Pierre Papin regen I have at Oxford United, or who I need to sign to replace Stan Collymore at Runcorn. I’m hoping I’ll be bored of it soon, but at the moment I’m still deep in it.
I’m not impressed with Cardiff City, who should have a bit more tact than to be offering jobs between playoff games. It’s rejected without a second thought.
We annihilate Switzerland back at our place. 6-0. For the 14,411 at the Laugardalsvollur, it’s the greatest night in Icelandic football history.
Just the 12 for Scotland then!
The World Cup groups are drawn and ours is not an easy one. Reigning European Champions Germany, and Sweden, who finished third last time round, will be favourites to go through. One thing in Iceland’s favour, they have, in terms of performance points, the best manager in the world.
The World Cup
The first match is against Tunisia. It’s an absolute rout, and it’s the first time I really realise how good this team is. Ruthless in front of goal, having scored 30 goals in our last 7 competitive games.
It’s Sweden next, at the famous “Stadium (France)”, where the game gets off to an explosive start. 5 goals in 15 minutes and then we both keep it tight for the remaining 75.
And we’ve qualified for round two with a game to spare.
We hold Germany to a 1-1 draw, winning the group and avoiding Spain in the second round.
We go behind against Morocco in the first knock-out game, and it’s a much tighter game than expected, but we win with a 94th minute golden goal (which I’d forgotten even existed in 1998).
It’s Italy in the quarter final and I’ve got my head in my hands. When I was in charge of Jamaica (https://cm9798.co.uk/2020/10/13/the-reggae-boyz-taking-jamaica-to-france-98-part-two-jackmcinroy/) I got absolutely destroyed by them. Twice.
But Iceland aren’t Jamaica. I’ve got a whole time of players averaging from 7.25 to 7.66. But can they do it against Maldini, Baggio and Albertini? I’m not confident enough to use 2-3-1-2-2 against opposition this good, so I go with the more conservative 4-2-3-1 (https://cm9798.co.uk/2017/08/27/talking-tactics-4-2-3-1/).
We only go and beat them. Arnor Gudjohnsen (Eidur’s dad) getting an 80th minute equaliser. Which one of them scored or missed in the shoot-out, I’ll never know. And I don’t care. We’re in the semi-finals after Baggio puts another one over the bar.
For Brazil I’m not even confident enough to go with 4-2-3-1, so it’s counter attack. We don’t get a goal and neither do they, and it’s extra time and penalties again.
All good (gud) things must come to an end. From the brink of elimination in Vaduz, Liechtenstein to taking the World champions to penalties in the Stade Velodrome.
In the third place play-off we face Portugal. Two teams that didn’t qualify for the tournament in real life. It goes to extra time for the fourth game in a row, but this time the golden goal goes the other way. We finish fourth.
The final is contested between two teams who couldn’t beat us in 90 minutes. Brazil run out victors over Germany with a 2-1 win, and handily there’s a nice picture of them holding the trophy in the background.
Could this be us in 4 years time? I’m expecting a couple of retirements and, of course, a certain regen. But first there’s the small matter of Euro 2000. My focus, like a lot of us, is on the Lockdown Challenge, but after that we’ll see if we can qualify.