World Cup 2022: Why Scotland won’t underestimate the improvement of the Faroe Islands

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Not many Scotland fans, remembering the 2-2 tie at Torshavn in 2002, would dare to underestimate the Faroe Islands.

On the other hand, playing against a nation with fewer people than Paisley and a large number of part-time players in its ranks could easily create complacency.

However, the Faroe Islands have slowly and steadily improved over the past 15 years and will offer a tenacious test on their own spot as Scotland look to get one step closer to a play-off spot in World Cup qualifiers.

Scotland will – and should – be certain of victory. But because of that, Steve Clarke and his team won’t take 114th in the world lightly.

Fitter and more skillful

Only Portugal have scored more than four goals against the Faroe Islands since 2012. For a remote country with almost 50,000 inhabitants, that means progress.

It was part of an improving trend in results over the past decade, with the minnows arriving just minutes after the Denmark draw last month, only for a late red card and a goal to snatch them away.

The Faroe Islands took the lead against Austria in March, then lost 3-1 and scored a goal against Portugal and Spain – and also against Sweden. In the current group stage they also won 2-1 against Moldova – a team that Scotland could only defeat 1-0 in Hampden.

The U21 side drew in last month’s European Championship qualifiers against a French team that included Real Madrid’s Eduardo Camavinga and Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier.

“In some games we were able to stand for 80 minutes and then the other team scored,” said Sigurjon Einarsson, web editor for Faroese magazine Dimmalaeting. “One aspect that has improved is that the players are fitter and have better stamina.

“There are now a lot of physical coaches in the clubs and in the international line-up.

“They have statistics on all the players and they know how much each player can play. That aspect has improved a lot over the last few years.”

In addition to the increasing professionalism of Faroese football, although there are practically no locally based professional players, the national association is constantly striving to increase the already impressive number of participants.

A playing field in almost every village means the Faroe Islands have 5,000 registered players, 10% of the country’s population. The national football association wants to increase this number to 6,000 by 2026, ensure that 90% of youth coaches have at least a Uefa-C license, and introduce a performance and analysis department.

The playing fields offer many opportunities to play and better coaches have enabled the young players to improve noticeably.

Increased confidence

The Faroese strategy has borne fruit in the field, creating a positive cycle. Around a third of the national team play abroad, mostly in Scandinavia, but last season striker Joan Simun Edmundsson was the first Faroese player to score in the Bundesliga when he scored for Arminia Bielefeld against Cologne.

There was also progress in European competition. Champion Havnar Boltfelag reached the third round of qualifying for the Europa Conference League before losing to Maccabi Haifa from Israel despite a 1-0 win in the second leg.

Last season Klaksvik reached the Europa League play-offs before losing to Irish champions Dundalk.

All of this was an incentive for the national team, as was the introduction of the Nations League in 2018. The Faroe Islands led their group last time and were promoted to League C.

“It was great for us to play against teams at our level,” said Einarsson. “You don’t have to sit back and defend for 90 minutes.

“We saw the Faroe Islands play some fantastic games where we played against Andorra, for example, like we were world champions.

“We had 75% possession during the games, which also improved our technical skills. It also increased the confidence of the players.”

Excited to take scalp

For the Faroe Islands to block Scotland’s path to a World Cup qualifying play-off spot, they need to show a perfect performance, similar to what they did against Denmark last month.

Draws against the Scots in 1999 and 2002 can be a source of inspiration, but Tuesday’s guests have now scored 17 straight goals against the Faroe Islands, including a 4-0 win at Hampden in March.

Simun Edmundsson, now in the Belgian second division, will pose a threat in attack while Einarsson Helsingborg midfielder Brandur Hendriksson Olsen is the team’s heartbeat.

“The Faroe Islands have fond memories every time we play Scotland on and off the pitch,” added Einarsson. “When the Tartan Army visits, it’s always a party.

“The Faroe Islands really like the Scots. We are neighbors and we are in a similar situation. Every time Scotland enters a competition, many Faroe Islands root for them.”

On Tuesday, that preference will be put aside in pursuit of a historic victory.


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