Normally only one man can outshine the constellation that is Cristiano Ronaldo. Lionel Messi has been able to do that remarkable feat for the past four years, but no other player has been able to eclipse the excellence of the Portuguese sensation.
No man other than Messi has come close to surpassing Ronaldo. But on the first night of the last international break, a September 6 Friday evening, it seemed no one would be able to top Cristiano’s latest hat trick performance in a vital win for Portugal over Northern Ireland in World Cup Qualifying.
But there was one man in Bern, Switzerland who achieved the remarkable feat of outshining the Real Madrid talisman. And he wasn’t related to Messi either.
On that same September night, Johann Berg Gudmundsson announced his name to the soccer world as only the second man on the planet who could make Cristiano Ronaldo look second best on an evening.
Gudmundsson’s incredible performance was the needed kick start to Iceland’s improbable World Cup hope. Tipped by many to finish at least under Scandinavian rival Norway and Slovenia, behind Switzerland in Group E of European qualifying for Brazil 2014, Iceland have out of nowhere passed those teams and gone into the key second place playoff spot with just two matches left for all teams.
The sudden rise has been generated by a terrific young, attacking core of players emerging. It’s what made Aron Johannsson’s decision to play for the United States so huge and drew the ire of Icelandic fans, because the small nation has developed several other notable attacking talents blessing the Eredivisie at the moment.
Iceland’s current stars are captain Aron Gunnarsson of Cardiff City, and the always slick Tottenham midfield ace Gylfi Sigurdsson. But it’s the precocious forward Icelandic men in Holland’s top flight that have brought their growing reputations and form into focus, giving their country a chance of getting to the World Cup for the first time in its nation’s history.
Kolbeinn Sigporsson is a clear first choice #9 for Ajax, who has proven his class the past few seasons with the Amsterdam giants, and scored the winning goal for Iceland in their crucial 2-1 home victory over Albania to go to second in the group with 13 points. But out performing him (5 goals in league play) (and the now American Johannsson with 6 goals) is the play of Heerenveen’s Alfred Finnbogason, who has already hit the double digit mark of 10 goals to be at the top of the Dutch league scoring charts. He has an amazing goal scoring record so far of 34 goals in 38 matches for the Friesland club, but isn’t even good enough to start regularly for Iceland since the great Eidur Gudjohnsen still is a vital member of his country’s team at age 35.