It’s been quite a few years of Johann Berg Gudmundsson, who caught the eye at the European Championships in 2016 during Iceland’s impressive debut at an international tournament.
Those performances earned the 27-year-old a move to the Premier League to join Burnley, where he’s since been part of a side that have astonished by securing Europa League football at Turf Moor next season.
Amidst those successes at club level, Gundmundsson has also been a key-part of Iceland’s charge to the World Cup in Russia this summer – where the Nordic nation will make their bow on the biggest football stage of all.
After stealing the headlines and breaking England hearts two years ago, pressure is on Iceland to show they can become regulars in the summer international tournaments and Gudmundsson is the player they’ll look at most.
Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson is certainly the biggest name in the squad but, after his struggles at Goodison Park following a transfer from Swansea City, the midfield ace doesn’t head to Russia on good form.
For Gudmundsson, it’s another situation entirely. The versatile attacking midfielder excelled for Burnley in their astonishing campaign this season, scoring two goals and providing eight assists in the Premier League.
Boasting 66 caps for Iceland, Gudmundsson has scored seven times for his nation and is the fourth-highest scorer in the squad for Russia; behind Sigurdsson, Alfred Finnbogason and Bikir Bjarnason.
In the past few years, Iceland have shown themselves to be a top side in European football and built upon their successful campaign at Euro 2016 by overcoming a qualifying group for the World Cup that was incredibly tight to call alongside Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey.
Gundmundsson’s Iceland side now face a different challenge entirely as they look to tackle nations from elsewhere in the globe and key preparations for the tournament take place on Thursday against Ghana, the final warm up game before the World Cup.
Ghana didn’t qualify for the World Cup this time around but do boast a strong pedigree at the tournament, famously reaching the quarter-finals eight years ago in South Africa, and they have a very talented side.
Gudmundsson, playing in the Premier League, has earned experience against a top-level of footballers and that will be crucial heading into the World Cup, where Iceland face a daunting challenge against Argentina, Nigeria and Croatia.
If they are to advance to the knockout stages of the competition, Iceland will likely have to seal results against Croatia and Nigeria. The latter is a side they won’t have too much experience with, which is why the clash with Ghana this week provides a crucial opportunity to learn what it’s like to face one of Africa’s giants.
The Iceland vs Ghana betting odds have Gudmundsson’s men as slight favourites and they will be looking to build some momentum ahead of next week.