The Icelandic strike duo taking the Eredivisie by storm
Iceland is not a country famous for producing world class footballers; but as two forwards are proving in Holland, the future looks very bright indeed.
Kolbeinn Sigþórsson and Alfreð Finnbogason are not two names that many will have heard about, but this impressive young duo are seriously impressing in the Eredivisie. Sigþórsson, who currently plays for Ajax, joined the Dutch club in 2011 from AZ and has impressed with an excellent goals to games ratio. At international level, the 23-year-old has already bagged 13 goals in 19 games. Alongside him, Heerenveen striker Alfred Finnbogason has scored 4 goals in 18 games for his country and has a more impressive record for his club, scoring 35 goals in 41 games in the league so far.
So what is going on in Iceland right now that has seen a sudden burst of footballing talent? It appears that the future is very bright for this Northern island, with a crop of very talented young individuals ready to burst onto the scene in the next couple of seasons.
Kolbeinn and Alfred have already attracted the interest of Premier League sides. The Ajax striker had been linked with a move to West Ham during the last transfer window, whilst Finnbogason was also believed to have turned down a move to the Hammers, preferring to stay put at Heerenveen for the short term at least. Despite that, the Icelandic duo have also seen further interest from other Premier League teams, with both Everton and Newcastle monitoring the young duo's progress.
Finnbogason's story is a slightly more interesting one, though. Up until 2010, the forward was playing for the relatively unknown Breidablik in his homeland. From there, a surprise move to Belgian side Lokeren saw him catch the eye with a number of European scouts impressed with the youngster's performances in the Jupiler League. A move to Heerenveen followed and now some of Europe's biggest teams have taken note. On the other hand, Sigþórsson has spent some of his young career playing for Icelandic giants HK, before AZ would bring him over to Holland aged just 20. A move to Ajax would then confirm his place as Iceland's most talented young player and the striker then helped Ajax to the Eredivisie title last year. This year, the 6 foot 1 forward is now the first choice striker at the Amsterdam Arena.
So what else is going on in Iceland to have seen this sudden burst of young talent from a country of just 325,000 people; considering that is six times smaller than the entire population of Essex.
Let's not forget that Tottenham also have the talented midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson; a player who has been an important member of Andre Villas-Boas' first team side this season. Meanwhile at Cardiff City the very impressive Aron Einar Gunnarsson continues to show why he is one of Iceland's best young prospects. Both of these midfielders, at just 24, have a great future ahead of them. Also playing in Holland at AZ Alkmaar is talented winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson. Several teams have been watching the 23-year-old in action and it is believed a move to the Premier League will come sooner rather than later. Amongst the other players who have shown potential includes Kristinn Jonsson, a 23 year old defender playing still in the Icelandic leagues and Victor Palsson who recently made a move to the Netherlands to play for NEC.
Iceland await a huge couple of games against Croatia in November. A win in the World Cup qualification play off would indeed prove to be historic. Iceland now have the players to compete with Europe's biggest sides, so expect them to be no pushover for the Balkan side.
Swedish manager Lars Lagerback should be given some serious kudos for the way he has turned the national side's luck around. The coach has bags of experience and has re-organised the team. At times you forget just how small this nation really is.
From the bottom up, Lagerback is taking a grossroots approach to football in Iceland.
The question that remains is whether or not Iceland can qualify for the World Cup in Brazil. With their excellent strike pairing, it really would be no surprise if they end up qualifying for next summer's showpiece tournament.