Kari Arnason says Scotland can emulate Iceland success

Aberdeen defender Kari Arnason has helped Iceland qualify for the World Cup. Picture: Haraldur Gudjonsson/AFP/Getty Images
Aberdeen defender Kari Arnason has helped Iceland qualify for the World Cup. Picture: Haraldur Gudjonsson/AFP/Getty Images
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Kari Arnason is convinced Scotland can become regular
participants in the finals of major competitions again if they follow the example of Iceland’s incredible route to success.

The Aberdeen defender returned from the euphoria of his country’s qualification for next year’s World Cup to the doom and gloom surrounding Scotland’s latest failure.

Arnason was a key figure in Iceland’s run to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, including a memorable win over England, but now they have proved it was no fluke by making to their first World Cup finals. Not only that but, while Scotland failed to reach the play-offs, Iceland topped a group that included Croatia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Arnason played his part with a goal in the 3-0 win in Turkey last week before they clinched qualification at home to Kosovo, an astonishing achievement for a country with a population of just 330,000 people.

He believes that can be an inspiration for the game here if Gordon Strachan’s replacement builds a squad with the right mental strength and a suitable system to stick by.

“I haven’t seen many Scotland games, though I was 
gutted that they didn’t capture that second spot,” he said. “But I think every small nation should be looking towards what we have achieved.

“It’s no small feat to qualify from our group but it just goes to show that anything is possible with the right mentality and the right set-up. We play a different game. We bring the game to the level we want it to be. We’re comfortable with opponents having 75 per cent of possession because we’re good at soaking up pressure.

“That’s because we’re a threat on set pieces and on the counter attack and that was the case in Turkey. They had 65 per cent of the possession but instead of it being 3-0 for us over there it could have even been more than that.”

One thing Arnason can’t understand is why none of the glamour clubs in Europe seem interested in his fellow countryman despite what they have achieved in recent years.

Gylfi Sigurdsson is at Everton and Johann Gudmundsson plays for Burnley in the English Premier League but the rest of the squad are scattered round teams like Cardiff City, Bristol City and Reading in England or lesser-known teams on the continent.

By contrast, the Croatia team Iceland beat to top spot to get to Russia contained the likes of Real Madrid’s Luka Modric, Ivan Rakatic, of Barcelona, and Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic.

Arnason said: “We always wondered why the entire team isn’t picked up by big clubs. The Iceland team would keep you in the Premier League in England. There’s no question about that.”