After their summer heroics, Iceland manager Heimir Hallgrimsson hopes his team can use tonight’s friendly against Ireland to further rid themselves of the hangover which followed.
Expectation accompanied the “Vikings” into this World Cup tilt after they, like Wales, emerged as the surprise packets at the European Championships.
Their victory over England to reach the quarter-final was one of the standout moments of the tournament, as was the Viking Thunderclap chant which followed them throughout, win or lose.
That ritual is expected to be belted out by both sets of fans tonight but Hallgrimsson is intent on his side rediscovering the sort of form on the pitch which not only extended their stay in France but rocketed them to a best-ever world ranking of 24 in October.
Their bid to secure successive qualifications has got off to a solid rather than spectacular start, with them sitting three points behind leaders Croatia in Group I before the nations meet on June 11.
That’s the same day Ireland resume their quest to reach Russia, meaning both managers will use this occasion to audition players for the competitive outings in 10 weeks’ time.
“There has definitely been a hangover from the Euros,” admitted Hallgrimsson, the boss who managed IBV against St Patrick’s Athletic in a Europa League back in 2011.
“Due to the team getting so far in France, our players didn’t get their usual holidays and went straight into pre-season.
“Top players like Cristiano Ronaldo are well used to doing that but not our players.
“It has caused injuries to a lot of them and no longer are Iceland the easiest team to predict a starting line-up for.
“We are doing well in the group but will get stronger because the team are motivated to build on what they achieved at the Euros.
“I always remind them that the Euros was not the destination, instead it was part of the continual journey towards success.”
Swansea City’s Gylfi Sigurdsson won’t feature tonight after he along with Arnor Ingvi Traustason and Emil Hallfredsson picked up injuries during Friday’s 2-1 win over Kosovo.
Hallgrimsson and his captain Aron Gunnarsson have since watched Ireland’s demolition derby against Wales and don’t believe the pace of the game against a much-changed side selected by Martin O’Neill will drop off.
“Knowing the Irish team as I do, I wouldn’t think the tempo will be any less than Friday,” said Hallgrimsson.
“Ireland will always be competitive game and I don’t see this as being just a friendly match full of passing.
“It is normal after a qualifier for us to change the team but Ireland will have a strong line-up so I will be careful not to have too much inexperience on the pitch.”
Gunnarsson, the Cardiff City midfielder, added: “I’m expecting a tough game against Ireland. I know Richard Keogh and Cyrus Christie from our time together at Coventry City and they will always do a job for the team.
“It was a shame what happened to Seamus Coleman.
“I couldn’t even watch the video again as it was such a horrible incident but Cyrus is a good replacement.”
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