Sports: Preview: Iceland vs. Armenia – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole, UK
Oct 6 2021
   English

Armenia travel to Laugardalsvollur to take on Iceland on Friday evening as the World Cup 2022 European qualifiers head towards their conclusion.

The hosts have had a poor campaign and sit fifth in the group, whilst some disappointing recent results have seen Armenia fall back towards the chasing pack for second.


© Reuters

Iceland competed at a World Cup for the first time in their history in 2018, but they now look very unlikely to repeat that feat four years later – in fact, if they lose to Armenia on Friday, it will become statistically impossible to do so as they will be 10 points behind with just three games remaining.

They were given a tough start to their qualifying campaign with a trip to take on Germany in the opening match and, after being beaten comfortably 3-0, never really picked up any form of momentum.

Arnar Vidarsson was promoted from managing the under-21 side to take charge of the full national team in 2020, but has been unable to match up to their underdog heroics of recent years and has witnessed his side lose four of their six qualifiers to this point.

Their only win came against minnows Liechtenstein in the third game and, despite a restful summer having failed to qualify for Euro 2020, Strakarnir okkar were unable to build on that when they returned to competitive action, with a draw at home to North Macedonia sandwiched between a 2-0 loss to Romania and a 4-0 loss to Germany.

A win on Friday will give them a glimmer of hope that they could still qualify and, under normal circumstances, they would fancy their chances in this fixture, but this is no ordinary Armenia side.

© Reuters

A total of 10 points from their first four matches left Armenia top of Group J, one point clear of four-time world champions Germany, with the team bidding to qualify for their first ever World Cup.

The Collective Team did not let their lowly world ranking – currently 89th – define them as they started with three consecutive wins over Liechtenstein, Iceland and Romania, and even went one year without losing a competitive match.

When that loss did come – precisely one year to the day after their previous defeat – it was a heavy one, however, as they lost 6-0 away to Germany.

That result cost Joaquin Caparros's side their place at the top of the group and perhaps dented their confidence as they could only draw in the following game against Liechtenstein, where Henrikh Mkhitaryan's first-half penalty was cancelled out by Noah Frick in the 80th minute.

Armenia now find themselves just one point above Romania and two above North Macedonia and will be desperate to pick up three points here to reclaim their grip on the second qualification spot.

Iceland World Cup Qualifying – Europe form:
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • L

Iceland form (all competitions):
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • D
  • L
Armenia World Cup Qualifying – Europe form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • D

Armenia form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • D
  • L
  • D

© Reuters

Iceland boss Vidarsson largely trusts his experienced core of players but has been forced into a change in recent games, with captain Aron Gunnarsson absent to due to injury, and the captain is not fit to be a part of the squad once again for this international break.

Birkir BjarnasonAndri Baldursson and Isak Bergmann Johannesson have formed a strong midfield unit in his absence, though, and are all fit for Friday's game.

Jon Gudni Fjoluson is another injury problem with Blackpool defender Daniel Gretarsson having been called up to the squad to replace him.

As ever, Armenia's captain Mkhitaryan will be the first name on the team sheet as the side's most experienced player and leading goalscorer.

The big news in Caparros's squad, however, has been the inclusion of Columbus Crew's attacking midfielder Lucas Zelarayan, who announced himself as eligible to play for Armenia, despite never having set foot in the country, due to it being the place of his grandfather's birth.

Iceland possible starting lineup:
Runarsson; Saevarsson, Hermannsson, Ingi Bjarnason, Thorarinsson; Anderson, Bjarnason, Baldursson, Palsson, Gudmundsson; Gudjohnsen

Armenia possible starting lineup:
Yurchenko; Hovhannisyan, Voskanyan, Haroyan, Terteryan; Bayramyan, Zelarayan, Grigoryan, Adamyan; Barseghyan, Mkhitaryan


Both teams will be determined to get something from the game and they may well cancel each other out to some extent. Each side has a strong defensive unit and has struggled to score goals in recent games, so a low-scoring draw seems a strong possibility.

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