May 22, 2018 / 2:01 PM / 4 months ago

Soccer-Iceland's Sigurdsson faces race against time for full fitness

STOCKHOLM, May 22 (Reuters) - Iceland stunned the footballing world by knocking England out of Euro 2016 on their way to the quarter-finals but if they are to enjoy similar success at the World Cup finals they will need attacking midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson back at full fitness.

The 28-year-old is the exception in a dogged, disciplined Icelandic team that is built to be more than the sum of its parts, and in the absence of a penalty-box predator, his attacking talents often provide the spark for their goals.

However, a knee injury sustained while playing for Everton in March has proved hard to shake off. He has been unable to play for the club since and three months without competitive action is not the best preparation for the World Cup.

With his athletic frame, superb technique and good vision, Sigurdsson adds that extra bit of zest to the counter-attacks that Iceland depend on.

He honed his skills at Reading, Swansea and Tottenham Hotspur before joining Everton, and also had a spell with 1899 Hoffenheim in Germany.

With chances likely to be at a premium in Russia and striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson also suffering a knee injury, what Iceland need most from Sigurdsson is his nose for goal.

He has netted 18 goals in 55 games for Iceland who, despite winning their group, scored only 16 goals in their 10 World Cup qualifiers, with Sigurdsson nabbing four of them.

With his dead ball skills also indispensable, the entire island nation will be hoping he is fit to captain the team when they open their campaign against Argentina on June 16.

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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