Iceland becomes smallest country to qualify for World Cup


Iceland became the smallest country to qualify for the World Cup when they beat Kosovo 2-0 on Tuesday (AEDT) to book a place at their first finals in Russian Federation next year as winners of group I.

It's a confirmation of the rise of the Scandinavian island nation after their shock win over England in a surprise run to the Euro 2016 quarterfinals.

Goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson and Johann Gudmundsson at the Laugardalsvöllur ensured Iceland, which has a population of less than 335,000, topped Group I of the European qualifying section.

"I mean. Pele, Maradona and Aron Einar Gunnarsson".

Serbia also qualified for the World Cup for the second time since becoming an independent nation in 2006. Italy was already assured of a playoff spot.

The Irish are looking to qualify for the World Cup for a fourth time, and first since 2002.

Wales only needed a draw in Cardiff to end Irish hopes but James McClean's driven half-volley early in the second period was enough for a dramatic victory.

"That last half hour seemed an eternity", Ireland manager Martin O'Neill said. We know one thing, regardless of how many wins they can get in Russian Federation, they will be the sentimental favorite for the tournament.

More news: Ghana beat Colombia in Group A opener

Bale couldn't play for Wales because of injury.

Kosovo, which has population of 1.8 million, managed to secure just one point from its World Cup qualification campaign, but the team coach Albert Bunjaki had nothing but praise for Iceland.

Can Iceland continue their success at Russian Federation 2018?

"We have some limitations at the moment but today there was the desire to try and do things", Ventura said.

Australia and Syria - the third-placed finishers in the two Asian final-round qualifying groups - play the second leg of their play-off on Tuesday with the score 1-1 after the first leg.

They came close in the last World Cup cycle before ultimately falling short in the UEFA playoffs against Croatia.

An emphatic 3-0 win in Turkey on Friday had sent Iceland top of the group for the final match, although they struggled to impose themselves against the group's bottom side.