Iceland qualify for World Cup for first time


Can Iceland continue their success at Russian Federation 2018?

Iceland players celebrate their 2nd goal.

Iceland have qualified for the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russian Federation thanks to a 2-0 win over Kosovo but there was heartbreak for Wales in Cardiff.

Keeping the momentum going from their 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 favourites Croatia.

They became the smallest nation to reach a major tournament at Euro 2016, where they defeated England in the last 16 before going out to France.

The fans at packed Laugardalsvollur Stadium had to be patient but the wait was worth it.

Ireland secured a playoff spot from Group D, while Gareth Bale's Wales was eliminated only 15 months after reaching the semifinals at Euro 2016.

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Martin O'Neill's men finished second in the group behind Serbia, who firmed up automatic qualification with a 1-0 win over Georgia after Aleksandar Prijovic's late goal.

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

Kosovo has been one of the weaker teams in these UEFA qualifiers, now last in Group I with 1 point, recently coming off a 2-0 defeat against Ukraine. They will not be seeded in the playoffs draw, which takes place on Wednesday (NZT).

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.

Ukraine and Croatia were locked at 0-0 in a battle for the one play-off spot when Andrej Kramaric converted a Luka Modric pass.

The Thunder-Capping islanders from the North Atlantic will be comfortably the smallest nation to ever qualify for a World Cup - population wise, if not physically.

In the tightest group of European qualifying, Iceland entered the last round with a two-point lead over Croatia and Ukraine.