Let’s hope Iceland freeze on the big stage

England fans gather in downtown Nice, France, Sunday, June 26, 2016, a day ahead of the Euro 2016 round of 16 soccer match between England and Iceland
England fans gather in downtown Nice, France, Sunday, June 26, 2016, a day ahead of the Euro 2016 round of 16 soccer match between England and Iceland

Iceland, who take on England in tonight’s last 16 eliminator at the European Championship, is by far the smallest team in the tournament.

In fact its population of 323,000 is only 5,000 more than that of Wigan borough!

The undisputed favourite Wigan meal though is the pie while the dish widely regarded as Iceland’s greatest delicacy is raw puffin heart

But there the similarities end. While our residents are squeezed into 77 square miles of space, the Icelanders are spread out over 39,000 square miles - making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe.

More than 60 per cent of the population live in the capital Reykjavík. In spite of this Wigan has plentiful amounts of countryside with more than 70 per cent of it unoccupied open spaces and woodland.

Iceland of course is dominated by far stonier terrain.

In fact it doesn’t boast a single forest. While it has done exceptionally well for its size, Iceland’s national sport is not football but handball.

We will leave it to readers to decide whether Wigan’s favourite sport is football or rugby league!

The undisputed favourite Wigan meal though is the pie while the dish widely regarded as Iceland’s greatest delicacy is raw puffin heart.

Geologically the Nordic land is fascinating for its hot springs and volcanic eruptions (the later take place on average every four years - remember that ash cloud that downed most of Europe’s aeroplanes for days?)

Wigan’s landscape is of course more conventional and the only tremors likely to take place this side of the Ice Age are if fracking is approved in the borough.

The most striking aquatic features are at semi-man-made in the form of our wildlife-rich flashes (caused by mining subsidence) or completely so in the form of the borough’s much-loved network of canals.

Celebrity-wise, among Iceland’s most famous exports have been pop star Byork, Mastermind legend Magnus Magnusson and football star Eidur Gudjohnsen.

Wigan of course can boast all manner of stars of the sports field, screen and stage, including George Formby, Shaun Edwards and Richard Ashcroft.

Considering that the average temperature in Iceland is considerably lower than Wigan’s you might be surprised to discover that full frontal nudity is quite common, not least at pool parties and public baths.

Not such a common sight on Standishgate.