What’s next for Iceland?
Yes, the question is a little untimely given the federation should continue to fete its EURO 2016 quarterfinalists for some time, but what are the odds Strákarnir okkar can take another big step in world competition?
For a simple start, checking a variety of betting sites shows that Iceland has the fourth-best odds of finishing in Group I’s Top Two, but that’s just 11:4.
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Iceland is in a group with Croatia, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland, and Kosovo. Should it finish in the Top Two and Group I not end up the softest in UEFA qualifying, the EURO darlings will have to play a two-legged knockout match to make it to Russia. They lost one of those in 2012, losing to Croatia after finishing second to Switzerland in group play.
Iceland should be able to build on the momentum of its run out of Group F, as well as the knockout rounds. Cynics will point to the expanded tournament field, but Iceland finished above Portugal and beat Austria. It also beat a team that normally makes it out of group play, so it’s not like Iceland wandered into a match-up with another surprise team (as poor as England played in France).
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Strákarnir okkar aren’t an extraordinarily young team, but they will not be losing a massive amount of talent in the next year. Croatia won’t be losing quality anytime soon, but Ukraine was uninspiring at EURO and has growing pains ahead. Turkey had a tough group but failed to impress versus Spain or Croatia. Finland finished fourth in a soft EURO qualifying group, and Kosovo is the newest of minnows.
Iceland’s infrastructure has been built towards overachieving, now the challenge is making that achievement regular (something quite daunting inside of UEFA).
We’re not sure we can accurately figure out what Iceland’s run means for its long-term prognosis as a developing European program, but finishing Top Two is not a daunting proposition. If it is a second place spot for Iceland, the chalk says the pool of knockout round opponents would be something like: Netherlands, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Austria, Denmark, Slovakia, Italy, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We’re not betting against them.