By Kayode Ogundare:
With A Goal Every Two Games, How Can Nigeria Stop Iceland’s Recovering Kolbeinn Sigthórsson?
Kolbeinn Sigthórsson, out injured for the better part of the last two seasons, has chosen the perfect time to overcome his injury woes and staged a return to the Iceland team preparing for their debut at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Though the Nantes striker missed Iceland’s last two friendly games against Mexico and Peru, it would be unfair to keep Sigthórsson out of the World Cup-bound team given his intimidating international scoring record of 22 goals in 44 games, averaging 0.5 each match.
He was one of the stars of Iceland’s fairytale run at the 2016 European Championships in France, scoring the winner in the Round of 16 game against England and his team’s solitary goal in the 5-2 loss to host country France in the quarter-finals.
He ended up as joint-highest goal scorer for his country at their first-ever international championship.
The 28-year-old first came into prominence when he scored five goals in AZ Alkmaar’s 6-1 defeat of VVV Venlo in the Dutch Eredivisie in 2011.
For Sigthórsson, however, scoring in bulk is nothing new: “I once scored ten goals in a match for the youth team,” he said. “Of course these five goals are fantastic for me. It gives you a lot of confidence. As a striker you need to score – I am always looking to score goals – so I am very happy with this tally.”
BEST POSITION: Sigthórsson plays mainly as arrowhead of the attack but, when occasion demands, can also play in a withdrawn no 10 position although he prefers the no. 9 spot.
STRENGTHS: Quick with the ball,Sigthórsson is deadly in aerial duels and also able to contribute a shift in defensive duties when the need arises. Has an eye for long surprise shots and can quickly transit from his own half into the opposition area within the twinkle of an eye.
WEAKNESSES: Slightly built but his all-action style of play makes him injury-prone, like the long lay-off which set him back since 2016 but when fully fit, he’s almost unplayable.
STYLE: Skilful, creative and classy,Sigþórsson makes as many goals as he scores. He likes to do flick-ons and turns on the style with little pieces of magic unusual for an out and out attacker like him.
NATIONAL TEAM STATS: Since his debut for the national team in 2010,Sigthórsson has just 44 caps with 22 goals, placing him second on the all-time record goals scorers list behind former Chelsea striker Eidur Gudjohnsen.
DISCUSSION: Which Super Eagles defender do you think is capable of shutting out Sigthórsson?
DO YOU KNOW?
- Iceland is the smallest country to ever qualify for the World Cup.Iceland is the first country in World Cup history to have less than a million people and successfully qualify to compete on soccer’s biggest stage. Iceland’s population is a mere 334,252, with approximately one-third of the island’s people living in the capital of Reykjavik.
- Their Coach is a Dentist. Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson is a part-time dentist…and a World Cup coach. When the Icelandic team isn’t practicing or playing, Hallgrimsson tends to be found at his dental practice, which he says he runs mainly so he can keep up with his patients and the people he misses.
To connect with fans, he started a tradition where he’d meet with supporters at a pub in Reykjavik before home matches and discuss the team’s lineup and tactics. That tradition continues to this day — and Iceland hasn’t lost a competitive match at home in four years, going 10-3-0 since its last home defeat in a qualifier.
- The lack of stars outside of Gylfi Sigurdsson of Everton, the team’s leading goal scorer, fits perfectly with Iceland’s reputation for getting the job done with their work rather than with their talent. More than that, it’s how they’ve made history.
- Iceland’s goalie, Hannes Halldórsson, began his professional career relatively late as he had long been battling a shoulder injury. Hannes is also a film director and directed the television series Atvinnumennirnir okkar, which follows some of Iceland’s professional sportsmen.
- Gylfi Sigurðsson, Iceland’s star player, is currently the highest paid Icelandic footballer, receiving around 40 million ISK in salary per month. Gylfi plays as a midfielder for Premier League club Swansea City.
- Iceland’s supporters are called “Tólfan” (The Twelve), as they are the “twelfth man on the field”. The club was founded in 2007 by a small group of supporters who felt the Icelandic national team needed to be cheered on by spectators. The club has since grown and, as has become evident during Iceland’s games, is extremely supportive of its team.