Iceland at world cup: all you need to know

14.01.2021 - 14:13
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The handball world championship is underway in Egypt and Iceland’s first game is at Cairo’s New Capital Sports Hall this evening—against Portugal, for the third time in eight days, following two qualifying matches for next year’s European championship. This is Iceland’s fifth world championship in a row and ‘Strákarnir okkar’ are the strongest team in their group, on paper.

Iceland is in Group F, alongside Portugal, Marocco and Algeria. The three top teams will advance to the second round. 

Algeria has appeared regularly at world championships in recent decades but has not made it to the second round since 2001.

Handball world championships occur every two years, and European championships on the other years, both usually occur in January.

Marocco qualifies for the Worlds for the first time in 14 years and has never made it to the second round. Portugal’s best result was finishing 12th overall in the competition in Portugal in 2003, which is also the last time the country qualified for a world championship. The Portuguese team has taken large steps in recent years, however, and finished sixth at the European championship last year. 

  • Algeria has appeared at 14 world championships, last in 2015, and its best finish was 13th in 2001. 
  • Iceland has appeared at 20 world championships, last in 2019, and its best finish was 5th in 1997. 
  • Marocco has appeared at 6 world championships, last in 2007, and its best finish was 17th in 1999. 
  • Portugal has appeared at 3 world championships, last in 2003, and its best finish was 12th in 2003. 

Iceland’s first world championship was in East Germany in 1958, finishing tenth out of 16 teams. The country’s best result of fifth place came in 1997, in Kumamoto, Japan. The country has qualified for every world championship since Croatia 2009. 

Teams advancing to the second round in Egypt will keep points from the first round from games against teams that also advance. They will not advance with points awarded for games against the team that goes home. As Iceland is considered likely to beat both Marocco and Algeria, the match against Portugal this evening is particularly important. 

All three of Iceland’s first round matches are played at 19.30 and will be live on RÚV TV and radio; tonight against Portugal, Saturday against Algeria, and Monday against Marocco. 

One of Iceland’s key players, Aron Pálmarsson, who plays his club handball for Barcelona, is out of the tournament due to injury. The country’s highest-scoring player of all time, Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson, retired after the European championship last year. It will soon come to light how Iceland fares without two players who have been central to the team for years. 

The team will play this evening in their brand-new kit, modelled above by Bjarki Már Elísson and Janus Daði Smárason.

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