June 14--The World Cup starts Thursday and with the United States failing to qualify, perhaps you have no rooting interest.
Well, how about Iceland? Here's why.
1. Iceland is the smallest country ever to qualify for the World Cup. Its population is 334,000 -- [th the population of Chicago, or roughly the size of Wichita.
2. Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson is a part-time dentist. "Working as a dentist has helped me a lot as you're always working one-on-one," Hallgrimsson told ESPN. "Some people are really afraid of going to the dentist, so you have to find the right way to talk to each individual client. You might have to relax one, be funny to the next one, be serious to the third, but you have to be quick to adapt. It is the same with footballer."
3. The thunder clap. It might not be as harmonious as "Chelsea Dagger," but Iceland's celebratory ritual is more intense -- and physical. Iceland's fans (often with the players joining in), with their hands over their heads, unite in a synchronized clap (punctuated with a loud "huh") that methodically builds to a rhythmic, dramatic crescendo.
4. Three hours before home matches, Hallgrimsson meets fans at a local pub to discuss game strategy and to answer questions. It's also there where he reveals the starting lineup for the first time. So why can't Matt Nagy meet with fans Sunday mornings at Kitty O'Shea's before Bears games?
5. Midfielder and team captain Aron Einar Gunnarsson not only proudly wears the Iceland jersey, he permanently wears a huge tattoo of the Iceland flag on his back and a tattoo of the church from his hometown of Akureyri (in north central Iceland) on his right arm.
6. Underdogs. As if being the tiniest nation ever in the World Cup (the nation's first) isn't enough, Iceland has its work cut out in a challenging group: Argentina, in particular, Croatia and Nigeria. Their opening game is June 16 against Lionel Messi's Argentina.
7. Devoted fans. For the Euro 2016 soccer tournament, 99.8 percent of Iceland's TV audience watched the national team's Round of 16 game against England. When the Bears played in the 2007 Super Bowl, by comparison, only half the city was tuned to that game. One could argue that there's less to do in Iceland, but hey have you ever been to Viking World?
Sources: ESPN, Maxim, Telegraph, Washington Post
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