Iceland become smallest country to qualify for World Cup

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

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.

Until fireworks went off after the final whistle, Monday’s match on a wet Reykjavik night rarely felt like an historic occasion, with the hosts grinding out a routine win against opponents who were more refined technically but lacked punch.

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