The tiny European nation doesn’t have a tradition in continental football, but for the first time in history Iceland has a chance of making the World Cup. They sit on the fourth place in a group of six teams, but a victory tonight would see them leapfrogging two opponents and bring them one step closer of making the playoffs. Bystanders and pundits alike took notice of their potential after the 4-4 against Switzerland, where the visitors rebounded from a 3-1 handicap.
The task at hand is not an easy one, as they need to win at home against Albania, a team that tied them for the third place with 10 points and a better goal average. Assuming Iceland finds a way of replicating their performance in Tirana, it will set up a decisive game against Norway one month from now. They will need to defeat Cyprus before that, but the very idea of traveling to the Scandinavian country in the last stage of the qualifying campaign to play a decisive game is amazing.
The last couple of years saw Iceland improving its offensive and nowadays its key strikers play for some of the best teams in Europe. It is not surprising that they scored three goals in a quick succession after digging themselves into a hole in Zurich on Friday. This is in fact the main reason of concern for their fans and punters alike, because Iceland proved to be a streaky team, incapable of building a comfortable lead or defending a narrow advantage.
Albania can safely be included into the same category, as they alternated impressive victories with surprising defeats. They did a fine job in causing major upsets such as earning four points in the double legged round with Norway, only to lose at home to Iceland. Whether the islanders got their number or Albania players expected that game to be an easy victory, what is certain is that they’ve lost a chance to claim the first place.
For the remaining two rounds, they have some tough fixtures scheduled, including a game against Switzerland at home and a visit to Cyprus. The defensive is their best asset, but Iceland proved that they’ve got the strikers capable of breaking through even the most effective back lines. The key for Iceland is to take the initiative from the very first minute, because although they have the best attack in the group, their defenses are weak.
As long as the hosts can keep the ball in the opposite field, they should have an easy task in winning the game and close the gap separating them from Norway. Most bookmakers offer odds above evens with the best values exceeding 2.20 and it is most unlikely for these odds to drop as the kickoff draws near. A medium stakes bet on Iceland to prevail makes perfect sense and whether you choose to place it right now or wait until the very last minute, give credit to this young and promising team.