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Iceland Smallest Nation Enters FIFA World Cup

Iceland has a population of about 335,000 while the previous smallest country to have reached a World Cup was Trinidad & Tobago, in 2006, which had 1.3 million people
Iceland’s players celebrate after reaching the World Cup finals.Iceland’s players celebrate after reaching the World Cup finals.

Iceland’s soccer supporters were in raptures on Monday as they celebrated across the country after the national team qualified for their first World Cup.

Less than 18 months after sensationally knocking England out of Euro 2016, Iceland, the smallest country ever to reach the finals, booked their ticket to next year’s finals in Russia by beating Kosovo 2-0.

Needing victory to guarantee top spot in European qualifying Group I, goals from Everton star Gylfi Sigurdsson and Johann Gudmundsson ensured Iceland would be on the plane to Russia 2018, Foxsport.com reported.

Iceland has a population of about 335,000 while the previous smallest country to have reached a World Cup was Trinidad & Tobago, in 2006, which had 1.3 million people.

The battle for second spot hung in the balance for over an hour in Kyiv between Ukraine and Croatia until Andrej Kramarić tipped the scales in Croatia’s favor with two goals in nine minutes. It rubber-stamped the Croatians’ runners-up place and play-off berth.

 Serbia Up, Wales Down

Aleksandar Prijovic scored after coming on as a second-half substitute to steer Serbia to a 1-0 win over Georgia and secure a place at next year’s World Cup finals.

Prijovic struck the winner on 74 minutes in Belgrade as Serbia finished top of European qualifying Group D, with the Republic of Ireland heading to the play-offs after a 1-0 victory over Wales in Cardiff.

While Ireland remain on course for a first World Cup finals appearance since 2002, surprise Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales saw their dream of a first appearance at the tournament since 1958 turn to dust.

Bereft of Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, and robbed of Joe Allen by a suspected concussion in the first half, Wales fell to their first defeat in the group and their first loss in a competitive home game in over four years.

  Second Place for Italy

Antonio Candreva lifted Italy to a 1-0 win over Albania in their final World Cup qualifying game that assures the Azzurri are top seeds for November’s play-offs.

Gian Piero Ventura’s side were already through to next month’s play-offs, but desperately needed a win in Shkoder to be guaranteed the status of top seeds in the draw on October 17.

The four-time world champions finished second in Group G behind Spain, that booked their ticket to Russia as group winners, with Italy through to the play-offs on November 9 and 14 as one of the eight best second-placed teams.

Reeling from last month’s defeat in Madrid to Spain, Ventura had come under fire after Friday’s dire draw with Macedonia in Turin.

Italy now has a month to regain confidence and some of their injured players, although top striker Belotti has already been ruled out of the play-offs.

“I hope to get some players back for the play-offs, as otherwise there might be a problem,” conceded Venturaea.

 

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