- Iceland qualified for its first World Cup this year.
- In Friday’s World Cup draw it got placed in a challenging Group D, with a first match against Lionel Messi and Argentina.
- While Iceland isn’t a pushover, it will be tough group for the world’s underdogs.
One of the upstart teams in next year’s World Cup drew a tough first match in Friday’s draw.
Iceland, a nation of just 330,000 people that is making its first World Cup appearance, was placed in Group D and will face Argentina in its first match. After Argentina it will play Croatia and Nigeria, two other difficult teams.
Iceland has become something of a world darling after a surprise quarterfinals appearance at the European Championship in 2016. It had an impressive run to World Cup qualification, beating notable teams like Croatia, Ukraine, and Turkey.
But facing Lionel Messi and Argentina, ranked fourth in the world by FIFA, will be another challenge. While Argentina has struggled lately and needed a Messi hat trick against Ecuador just to qualify for the World Cup, it maintains a dynamic offensive attack that can rely on one of the two best players in the world to carry it.
As The New York Times’ Rory Smith argued, if Argentina can improve its defense, a semifinals appearance in the World Cup could be a slightly pessimistic possibility. In other words, despite recent struggles, Argentina is a team with its eyes on the prize.
Iceland is not a pushover, and many in the soccer world feel that Argentina, a two-time World Cup winner, drew one of the toughest groups in the tournament. Iceland finished ahead of Croatia in the rankings, and Nigeria beat Argentina in a recent friendly (albeit without Messi).
The group could be considered a “Group of Death” – if there is one this year – but it may be tough news for Iceland. As The Guardian’s Jonathan Fisher wrote, it’ll be a “baptism of fire” for one of the world’s rising teams.