Iceland, Serbia advance to World Cup

Arnold Nichols
October 11, 2017

The previous smallest country to have reached a World Cup was Trinidad & Tobago, in 2006, which had 1.3 million people.

Gylfi Sigurdsson scored the opener against Kosovo in Reykjavik after 40 minutes before Johann Gudmundsson added a second in the second half.

Keeping the momentum going from its inspiring run to the 2016 European Championship quarterfinals, Iceland topped Europe Group I and advanced automatically to the finals in Russian Federation next year at the expense of favourite Croatia.

"This is an incredible achievement.Egypt hasn't gone to a World Cup since 1990 and it has been a source of national shame that the Pharaohs had not qualified despite being arguably being the best team in Africa over much of the past decade", said author James Montague.

"Congratulations to the whole Iceland team and to Icelanders", said Bunjaki, whose country's population is around six times larger than Iceland's.

Portugal is three points behind Switzerland in Europe Group B and needs a victory to secure first place and the automatic spot for next year's World Cup.

"Are you kidding! We are going to the World Cup!" was the reaction of the local TV commentator at the final whistle, and even Hallgrimsson seemed bewildered.

Iceland and Serbia join host-nation Russian Federation, defending champion Germany, Spain, England, Belgium and Poland in the European contingent for the 2018 tournament.

The party analogy returned last night as Hallgrimsson and his players basked in the remarkable feat of having become the least populous nation ever to reach a World Cup.

Aleksandar Prijović got the only goal 16 minutes from time to clinch top spot in Group D.

Spain ended its qualifying campaign by beating Israel 1-0 in Jerusalem, while Italy scraped past Albania 1-0 in Shkoder in another poor effort which will do little to inspire confidence in coach Gian Piero Ventura and his team.

The play-off draw takes place a week later in Zurich, with the play-offs over two legs to take place between November 9 and 14.

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