World Cup Fans: Iceland diehards set to inspire team in Russia

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The island nation may only be small, but it’s got a loud, passionate fan base.

When Iceland qualified for this year’s World Cup in October, it earnt a place in sporting history. 

The country took Trinidad and Tobago’s crown as the smallest nation (by population size) to have reached football's biggest tournament. 

The Nordic island nation is home to just over 330,000 people – less than the number of people living in Canberra.   

Ten percent of Iceland's population made the trip to France for the Euro 2016 tournament to cheer on the team and a similar number is expected in Russia this June.

Iceland fans at Euro 2016.
Iceland fans at Euro 2016.
EPA

Among them will be school football coach Vihjalmur Waage and his son Alexander, despite living in Australia.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I expect Iceland to qualify for the World cup,” Mr Waage, who lives in Sydney, told SBS News. 

Vihjalmur Waage
Vihjalmur Waage is heading to Russia to support his beloved Iceland at the World Cup.
John Baldock / SBS News

“For the Euros two years ago we went to Iceland to be a part of the excitement and it was crazy.”

Mr Waage first came to Australia on a merchant ship in the early 1970s and liked what he saw so much he returned later in the decade with his wife and young son.

He has been coaching at a local school for the past 18 years and has even taught his grandaughter's football team Iceland’s famous Viking clap. 

Vihjalmur Waage
Vihjalmur Waage teaches the Maroubra Pythons how to do the Viking chant.
SBS - John Baldock

The victory chant became a global phenomenon after Iceland beat England 2-1 at the Euros and teams with Viking links including the NRL’s Canberra Raiders and the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings soon adopted the craze.

Fairytale form

Iceland has now risen to 22nd in the world and will go into its Group D clashes against Argentina, Nigeria and Croatia with a realistic chance of progressing to the knockout stages.

Mr Waage says part of the team’s strength is the fact the majority of the country is behind them. 

"Virtually everybody knows a brother or a player that plays for Iceland,” he said.

Iceland will be hoping key midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, who plays for Premier League side Everton, recovers from his knee injury in time.

Then, Mr Waage said, the sky is the limit:

“Ideally if they get to a semi-final their opponent would be Australia, then I couldn't lose."

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