Iceland surprises football fans, becomes smallest nation to qualify for World Cup

Srdjan Stevanovic  GettyImages

With a population of just over 335,000 people, it is by more than a million people the smallest World Cup finalist ever.

They sealed a place in Russian Federation with a 2-0 victory against Kosovo in Reykjavik as Heimir Hallgrimsson's team knew a win against Group I's bottom side would guarantee top spot and an automatic qualifying place. At Euro 2016, Iceland shocked the world with a run all the way to the quarterfinals.

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

Although they have never previously qualified for a World Cup finals, Iceland do have some tournament pedigree after they managed to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 - their first major tournament - defeating England in the process.

Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson and Burnley's Johann Gudmundsson got the goals on Monday evening. Iceland beat Kosovo 2-0 and Liverpool's Mohamed Salah took Eygpt to an emphatic 2-1 win over Congo.

All Iceland needed to do was defeat last-placed Kosovo at home to clinch a berth at Russian Federation 2018.

A goal in the 74th minute by substitute Aleksandr Prijovic led Serbia to a 1-0 triumph over visiting Georgia, boosting their point total to 21, two more than Ireland, who nailed down second place with a 1-0 away win against a Wales squad missing the injured Gareth Bale. Moreover, Eygpt acquired world cup berth in 28 years as Cairo crackled with firecrackers and celebrations continued from dawn to dusk.

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.

In other results, Austria won 1-0 in Moldova in Group D, Finland and Turkey finished 2-2 in Group I, and Macedonia beat Liechtenstein 4-0 in Group G.

Qualification across the regions concludes today, before the play-offs within each confederation and inter-confederation play-offs take place next month.

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