Iceland and Panama – Their 2018 World Cup Journey

June the 14th marks the opening day of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and will see the populations of two nations head to the tournament for the very first time.

Iceland and Panama will take their first steps on the global stage against Argentina and Belgium respectively, full of optimism and excitement that anything is possible.

One team from UEFA and one from the CONCACAF confederation have qualified for the tournament in Russia.

Iceland, having played their first-ever match in 1930, took 88 years to qualify. Whilst Panama took 80 years since their international debut in 1938.

Last time, it was Bosnia and Herzegovina who made their first appearance on the world’s biggest stage at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Now its the turn of two footballing minnows to make their mark and show they aren’t just their to make up the numbers.

Here at Park Life Sport, we take a closer look at their journey towards the 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup.

The smallest nation to ever qualify, boasting a population of just 330,000, set the European championships alight in 2016 and haven’t looked back since.

Winning their group which contained eventual winners Portugal, shocked the world by beating England 2-1 in the last 16 before being knocked out by losing finalists France 5-2 in the quarter-finals.

Qualifying for the 2018 World Cup saw them come up trumps once again. Led by Cardiff City captain Aron Gunnarsson, Iceland finished top of group I in the European qualifiers, ahead of the likes of Croatia, Turkey and Ukraine.














Ten games in the group saw them win seven, drew one and lost just twice.

Having accumulated 22 points, this was enough for them to qualify and qualify comfortably.

They also boasted an impressive goal difference of nine having scored 16 and conceding just nine.














Like Iceland, Panama endured a gruelling qualifying campaign that saw them have to go through two stages in the qualification process.

First of which saw them finish second to Costa Rica in round four of the regional qualifiers. This subsequently took them through to the fifth round of CONCACAF qualification where they came up against the likes of the USA and Mexico.

A 2-1 victory over Costa Rica in the final round of fixtures saw them finish second alongside Honduras.
However, a goal difference five better than their American counterparts was enough to secure qualification.
















Three wins, four draws and three defeats from their ten games saw them, along with Mexico and Costa Rica, qualify for the tournament in Russia.

The qualification sparked jubilant scenes all across the country as they celebrated a truly remarkable feat. A 1-1 draw in a friendly against Wales in November proved they’re more than capable of competing against nations much higher on the footballing ladder.















With just 31 days until the tournament kicks off in Russia as the hosts face Saudi Arabia in Group A, both Iceland and Panama will embrace the tournament and look to give a good account of themselves.

No one is expecting them to win it, but after Iceland’s Euro 2016 success and Panama’s emergence as a rising footballing nation, there’s every chance either team can cause an upset.

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