Bilic: West Ham should take inspiration from Iceland’s achievements

Slaven Bilic


Slaven Bilic is wants his players to take inspiration from playing at the home stadium of world football’s greatest underdogs.

West Ham United are in Iceland to take on Manchester City in The Super Match on Friday afternoon – the first fixture between two Premier League teams to be played on the North Atlantic island.

And with the Hammers facing the Citizens just nine days before the Premier League season kicks-off at another of the top-flight’s big guns, Manchester United, Bilic is hoping a little bit of Icelandic magic will rub off on his squad.

“Iceland are a good team,” said the manager, who led Croatia U21s to victory in Iceland back in 2005, and watched his own senior national team beaten by Lars Lagerback’s side in a vital 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Reykjavik just seven weeks ago.

“Now Iceland are expecting to qualify for the World Cup, which puts a bit of pressure on the players and how are they going to react? A few years ago, whatever they did was a success so they couldn’t lose, but now it’s a bit different.

“Iceland brought so much to world football and the Euros over the last few years and it was amazing to watch them on the pitch and in the stands.”

Everything is possible and every year one national team like Iceland or one club in a league, whatever that league is, does it and you have to be positive that it can be you

Slaven Bilic

So, is there a parallel between Iceland upsetting the international football order and West Ham defeating two of the Premier League’s top sides over the next fortnight?

“We have to believe, because if you don’t believe then you don’t have a chance anyway,” he said. “First, you have to believe and dream and then make your plans accordingly.

“Everything is possible and every year one national team like Iceland or one club in a league, whatever that league is – Genoa in Italy, Hoffenheim in Germany or Leicester in England a couple of seasons ago – does it and you have to be positive that it can be you.”




While The Super Match – an annual fixture hosted by Manchester City against another leading European side – is ostensibly a friendly fixture, Bilic is also acutely aware that it will see the Hammers face one of the best teams in world football.

For that reason, a positive performance and result will give his own squad a massive confidence boost ahead of their visit to Old Trafford on 13 August.

“Every result helps and of course it gives you the proof you are searching for as a manager and as a player, as individuals and as a team,” he confirmed. “For example, when we were playing well against Werder Bremen, you could see our confidence rise and so it is important.

“I’m sure we have trained really good in Germany and in Austria and we are going to be ready for the start of the season. We are aiming for the game against Man United, but first we have Man City and all the players are still fighting for the jerseys. Tomorrow’s game counts for that, of course.”

Team news-wise, Bilic admitted Cheikhou Kouyate will be out for ‘a longer period, not long, long, long but long enough’., but there was more positive news regarding the absent Manuel Lanzini and Aaron Cresswell, who will be out for ‘a week’.

Mark Noble returns to the squad after missing two pre-season with a toe injury, while Chicharito will again be involved as he continues to build up his match fitness.