Ranked 138th in the FIFA rankings, habitually patronised, regularly beaten and constantly dismissed as a “minnow”, the national team of the Faroe Islands don’t exactly have it easy. However, yesterday’s 1-1 draw with Nigel Worthington’s Northern Ireland in Totfir gave a tantalising glimpse of the brighter future that could await the Faroese side.
Although they are still struggling at the foot of Group C with just one point from five games, former Republic of Ireland manager Brian Kerr was appointed in April last year and, if Tuesday’s game was anything to go by, has instilled a greater confidence and discipline into the team. Indeed, since Kerr’s appointment the Faroes have enjoyed victories over Latvia, Lithuania and Andorra – the win over Lithuania being the country’s first World Cup qualifying win since 2001.
Set out in an orthodox 4-4-2 shape, the Faroes defended resolutely and proved effective on the counter-attack, managing to stifle the game plan of their more illustrious opponents. Ross County’s Atli Gregersen in particular stood out at the back, winning ball after ball at the centre of defence to limit the opportunities that were afforded to the likes of Kyle Lafferty and Warren Feeney.
The 20 year-old left-back, Erling Jacobsen, also impressed, looking accomplished both defensively and getting forward, shackling Rangers’ Steven Davis brilliantly throughout. If the Faroes are able to bring through more young players of Jacobsen’s evident calibre (something which, admittedly, could be difficult given a population of just under 50,000) then they would be right to harbour aspirations of moving into the top 100 of the rankings in the near future.
The star of the Faroese show, however, was centre forward Christian Holst. Plying his trade for Silkeborg in the Danish Superliga, Holst is one of the team’s few full-time professionals and his ability shone through as he regularly troubled the Northern Ireland back four with his direct, bustling style. Strong and alert in front of goal, it was Holst who put the Faroes into the lead on Tuesday and, still just 28, could be leading the line for some time to come.
Seen as something of a joke for the majority of their existence, the Faroese team – which only became a member of FIFA in 1988 – may finally be starting to break down their stereotype as a one of the whipping boys of Europe. Sure, they’re still a long way from becoming a consistently competitive outfit, but Brian Kerr’s Faroe Islands are making small steps towards a better standing on the international stage.