A tiny cluster of islands between Scotland and Iceland, the Faroe Islands’ remote location and population of 50,000 souls marked them out for many years as one of UEFA’s much-patronised whipping boys. But that’s all changed now – and the stats suggest that qualification for World Cup 2018 in Russia is far from a pipe dream.
Following last night’s 0-0 draw with Euro 2016 quarter-finalists Hungary, a game the Faroes’ dominated and should have won, there’s even more reason to believe the 350/1 shots can win their qualifying group. Here’s why.
Away day joy
It may be a tricky journey from Faroese capital Torshavn to reach the likes of Greece or Gibraltar, but you wouldn’t know it from the three commanding victories that Lars Olsen’s men have managed in their last seven away games.
The 1-0 victory at Claudio Ranieri’s Greece in Euro 2016 qualifying was the most impressive of the bunch, as the Faroes did the double over the former European Champions with a pair of outstanding counter-attacking performances.
However, the 4-1 demolition of an improving Gibraltar side and a comfortable win in Vaduz which saw Olsen’s charges 3-0 up by the hour mark suggests marks their status as a side quickly improving on the road.
Having also fallen to defeat by a single goal on trips to Hungary and Romania in the past 18 months, don’t be surprised to see some big name sides fall foul of Lanslidid.
An increasingly solid defence
Here’s a stat for you – the Faroes haven’t conceded more than three goals in any of their last 23 games. In that time they’ve faced the likes of Germany, Austria, Romania, and only a red card against Die Mannschaft saw a famous result against Joachim Low’s men slips from the Faroes’ grasp.
That opening-game clean sheet against Hungary makes this the second consecutive qualifying campaign where Olsen has guided his side to at least one shutout against a European heavyweight.
And all they need to improve that good defensive record is a little more fitness going into the latter stages of games – something Lanslidid are continuing to develop, thanks to an increasing number of players at professional clubs.
They have real creative quality
The Faroes may not have a genuine star name in their side, but they do have a number of talented creative players, all of whom work intelligently in Olsen’s trusted flat 4-4-2 system.
Secondary striker Joan Simun Edmundsson is quick, strong and an instinctive finisher, and has netted three times in his last five games for Danish top-flight outfit OB, as well as in three of his last ten outings for the Faroes.
Elsewhere, young winger René Joensen is a lightning-fast nightmare for opposition full-backs, and can deliver a great cross, while Roaldur Jakobsen offers great distribution and regular goals from midfield.
Combined with the quality of former Manchester City keeper Gunnar Nielsen between the sticks, and a backline as tough and rugged as the Faroese landscape, they look genuine contenders to finish top of qualifying group B at 350/1, and book their flights for World Cup 2018 in Russia.
Next up is a trip to Latvia, who took just a single point at home in their last qualifying campaign. Win there, and the Faroes could find themselves in pole position in a month’s time.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing