Published: Wed, October 11, 2017
Sports | By Mabel Barber

Iceland Smallest Nation Enters FIFA World Cup

Iceland Smallest Nation Enters FIFA World Cup

After reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 in the debut at a major tournament, Iceland now have their first ticket to a World Cup, and will be the smallest nation based on population ever to compete in the finals.

Keeping the momentum going from its 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 favourite Croatia.

Italy knew they would be heading into the play-offs and the four-time World Cup winners beat Albania 1-0 thanks to Antonio Candreva's goal, while Macedonia hammered bottom-side Liechtenstein 4-0.

The European country with the smallest population to take part in the Federation Internationale de Football Association world cup finals are Northern Ireland.

The result takes them two points clear of Croatia for the top spot in Group I of UEFA World Cup qualifying series.

Gylfi Sigurdsson put the hosts ahead in in the first half and Johann Gudmundsson made it 2-0 in the second.

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The win for the Egyptians, which sparked wild scenes of celebration in Alexandria and in capital city Cairo, saw them finish top of their six-team group in the African qualifying section.

It's a confirmation of the rise of the Scandinavian island nation after their shock win over England in a surprise run to the Euro 2016 quarterfinals. Uruguay just need to draw at home to Bolivia to join Brazil but beneath them, only two points separate the next five teams in the standings with one round of games to go.

Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson was in disbelief after his team qualified for the 2018 World Cup with a 2-0 win over Kosovo.

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.

Academic and author Viðar Halldórsson who wrote "Sport in Iceland: How small nations achieve global success" tweeted: "It's not genes, it's culture, organization and bunch of character!"

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