10 Oct 2017

Iceland qualifies for World Cup

10:56 am on 10 October 2017

Iceland became the smallest country ever to qualify for the football World Cup when they beat Kosovo 2-0 to book a place at their first finals in Russia next year as winners of Group I.

England v Iceland - Iceland players celebrate their 2nd goal.

England v Iceland - Iceland players celebrate their 2nd goal. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Gylfi Sigurdsson settled their nerves with a superbly-taken goal five minutes before halftime as Iceland proved that their run to the 2016 European Championship quarter-finals, which included wins over Austria and England, was no fluke.

Sigurdsson also set up the second for Johann Gudmundsson midway through the second half as Iceland completed the campaign by winning their final three games without conceding a goal.

It was a remarkable achievement for a country which has a population of about 350,000. The previous smallest country to have reached the finals was Trinidad & Tobago, in 2006, with 1.3 million people.

Coached by part-time dentist Heimir Hallgrimsson, Iceland finished the group with 22 points from their 10 games.

Iceland's starting lineup included four players based in England's second tier, two from the English Premier League, one from Italy's Serie A and one each from the top flights of Denmark, Sweden, Scotland and Russia.

Iceland's seven wins in the group included all five of their home matches where previous World Cup semi-finalists Croatia and Turkey were among the victims.

Serbia qualified for the finals after a 1-0 home win over Georgia and enabled them to finish top of Europe's Group D with 21 points from 10 games.

It is the second time Serbia have reached the finals as an independent nation, having been knocked in the group stages of the 2010 tournament in South Africa and then missing the next three major football events.

Serbia held on comfortably in the closing stages, knowing that they were safely through as Ireland won 1-0 at Wales to seal second place in Group D and book a playoff berth.