Iceland to make history with first November home game on grass

The tiny European nation have never before hosted this late in the year but have taken extra precautions to ensure that they are prepared for Friday's World Cup play-off
Iceland are set to make history in Friday's World Cup play-off with Croatia as they prepare to play their first-ever match in November in their national stadium.

The Laugardalsvollur in Reykjavik, which holds approximately 10,000 people, has never before been able to host a game so late in the year due to the harsh winter weather of the island nation.

The pitch has been covered with a special fabric, with hot air pumped beneath it, in order to keep the turf ready for use as temperatures in the city continue to hover around zero degrees Celcius.



With sleet and snow forecast for Friday's encounter, referee Alberto Unidiano Mallenco arrived in Reykjavik on Thursday in order to check the state of the playing surface well before kick-off.

Iceland's domestic championship only runs between May and September and artificial pitches have been installed at clubs throughout the country in recent years to enable players to train in the harsher winter months, with grass surfaces often frozen solid.

"The result is that now Iceland has more talented players than ever before. One can say that the members of the Icelandic team today are the first generation to grow up under these conditions," experienced sports journalist Vidir Sigurdsson told AFP.

Iceland entertain Croatia in the first leg of their European play-off as they look to become the smallest-ever nation to reach the finals of football's greatest showpiece.

Tickets for the match sold out within four hours of going on sale earlier in the autumn, with some 30,000 supporters appyling for a seat - almost 10 per cent of the population of the country.