Alfred Finnbogason admitted he is glad he doesn’t have the task of marking Lionel Messi at the World Cup but hopes Iceland can leave the Argentina star disappointed in Russia.
Iceland are preparing to face Argentina in their World Cup debut at Spartak Stadium and Finnbogason said the 1-1 draw his side achieved against Portugal in their opening match at Euro 2016 would inspire them in Moscow.
The Augsburg striker came off the bench as Iceland quelled the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo in France, and he said stopping Messi would require more of the team spirit and togetherness that Iceland became famous for two years ago.
“We know all players of Argentina but you never know how they work as a team,” Finnbogason told Omnisport. “They have so many stars. Our strength always is the team.
“We work well as a team together. It is difficult to score goals against us. If we can take the momentum of the Euros to the World Cup it will be difficult to beat us. We aren’t a favourite in the group but we will give everything to be able to surprise again.”
When asked about Messi, he added: “I am happy that I am a striker. Maybe I do not need to defend so much against him. But that is the special thing about these big tournaments.
“Also against Ronaldo it was very special – he was so angry after the game that they didn’t win against us. I hope that we will disappoint another world star in the first game of the World Cup.”
After topping a qualifying group that featured Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey, Iceland have failed to win any of their four World Cup warm-up matches, losing to Mexico and Peru in March before another defeat against Norway and a draw with Ghana on Thursday.
It’s all over in Reykjavik.
It ends 2-2.
— Knattspyrnusambandið (@footballiceland) June 7, 2018
Despite their poor form, Finnbogason believes Iceland have improved since their impressive run to the quarter-finals in France, saying: “In the last two years we have developed the style of play as a team and got better. We showed that in our results in the very difficult group which we had in the qualification.
“I hope that we will surprise again. Of course it is our target to go farther than the group stage.”
Finnbogason picked out midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson as the man to inspire them to success in Russia, despite the Everton star’s recent injury problems.
Sigurdsson missed the last two months of the Premier League season with a knee injury but has recovered in time to travel to Russia, and Finnbogason said: “He is the most important player in our offence. He has often the ball.
“The most important thing about him is that he doesn’t think that he is bigger than the team. He always runs and works for the whole team.
“He is like any other player in our team. That is a main part of us that we have no superstars who thinks that they are too good to run for the team. I think he is the best example why we have the success that he works so much for our team.”
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