Iceland are smallest nation to ever reach a World Cup finals

Iceland have qualified for the World Cup for the first time in their history after beating Kosovo 2-0 in Reykjavik last night.

Aberdeen and Iceland defender Kari Arnason in action against Kosovo. Picture: Haraldur Gudjonsson/AFP/Getty Images
Aberdeen and Iceland defender Kari Arnason in action against Kosovo. Picture: Haraldur Gudjonsson/AFP/Getty Images

Keeping the momentum going from their inspiring and memorable run to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals, Iceland topped Group I and advanced automatically to the finals in Russia next year at the expense of group favourites Croatia.

Furthermore, Iceland are the smallest nation in terms of population – 330,000 – to make a World Cup finals.

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Gylfi Sigurdsson put the hosts ahead in the first half and Johann Gudmundsson made it 2-0 in the second. Aberdeen centre-half Kari Arnason, who scored in the 3-0 weekend win in Turkey, played the full 90 minutes.

Iceland won the group by two points from Croatia, who beat Ukraine 2-0 in Kiev thanks to a second-half double by Andrej Kramaric.

Ukraine finished third, Turkey fourth and Finland fifth. Last night Turkey and Finland played out a 2-2 draw in Turku.

Serbia qualified for the World Cup for the second time since becoming an independent nation in 2006 after beating Georgia 1-0, topping the group that also included Wales and the Republic of Ireland.

Aleksandar Prijovic’s 74th-minute goal in Belgrade ensured Serbia topped the section by two points and are heading back to football’s biggest stage for the first time since 2010.

In the other game in Group D, Austria won 1-0 in Moldova after Rapid Vienna midfielder Louis Schaub scored with 20 minutes remaining.

Italy scraped past Albania 
1-0 in their final qualifier in Group G, another poor effort which will do little to inspire confidence in coach Gian Piero Ventura and his team.

Italy were already guaranteed second spot and a play-off berth, and Antonio Candreva’s second-half goal at least ensured them of top-seed status in next Tuesday’s draw.

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The Azzurri finished five points behind Spain, who concluded their campaign with a 1-0 win in Israel, with Real Sociedad’s Asier Illarramendi on target. Macedonia beat Liechtenstein 4-0 in the game between the two bottom sides.