With the U.S. MNT set to take on Iceland on Sunday, January 31, we asked USA forward Aron Johannsson to share five things fans should know about the Nordic country where he spent much of his childhood. Tune into the match at 3:45 p.m. ET/12:45 p.m. PT on ESPN 2 or UniMas and be sure to follow along on Facebook and Twitter (@ussoccer and (@ussoccer_esp).
1. Iceland soccer has never been better
The past three or four years have been the highlight for soccer in Iceland. They just missed the 2014 World Cup with a loss to Croatia, which is the closest they’ve ever been to qualifying for a World Cup. Now they qualified for the European Championships, which is very exciting for them.
2. Sunday’s roster differs from the roster to be used at the European Championships
Many of the best Icelandic players are currently with their clubs, including Gylfi Sigurðsson at Swansea and Aron Gunnarsson at Cardiff. Their situation is similar to the U.S. team in January camp. Most of the players on this roster are new and unproven, so they are trying to show the coaches they want a spot at Euros this summer.
3. The team is very disciplined
Everyone on the team knows their role, where they are supposed to be and when. They are very well coached. Their style of play depends on their opponent, but because these players are want to prove themselves, they will be very aggressive.
4. Eidur Gudjohnsen is the best of all-time
Eidur Gudjohnsen is the best player in Iceland history. He won the English Premier League, one of the best leagues in the world, with Chelsea. He also played for one of the best clubs at Barcelona where he won the European Champions League and La Liga. He has accomplished everything there is in club soccer, but now he has one last shot to represent his country this summer.
5. Iceland has unique culture
I didn’t travel much around Iceland growing up, but people really like going to the mountains and enjoying the hot springs. You can’t find them many other places. I don’t like traditional Icelandic food, which includes sheep eyes, ears and tongues. Mostly just old people eat it. Instead, I grew up eating the same stuff as everyone like chicken and fish.