PARIS (AFP) – Iceland qualified for the World Cup for the first time after beating Kosovo 2-0 on Monday.
Gylfi Sigurdsson and Johann Gudmundsson scored in Reykjavik as Iceland, with a population of just 330,000, became the smallest country to advance to the World Cup finals.
It is the tiny northern European island nation’s second successive appearance at a major tournament after their shock win over England in a surprise run to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals.
“I thought after Euro 2016 that the hardest thing would be to motivate ourselves again,” said Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson. “The hardest thing was to get going again after our massive party in France.
“And what’s more in a group contested between Croatia, Turkey, Ukraine and Finland.
“The success is not an end in itself but a long journey towards a final destination.”
Iceland needed all three points to secure top spot in Group I as Croatia, who sacked coach Ante Cacic last week, downed Ukraine 2-0 in Kiev in the fight to claim second place.
Andrej Kramatic struck twice in the second half to send Croatia into next month’s play-offs as Zlatko Dalic took charge of his first match following the 1-1 draw with Finland that prompted the dismissal of Cacic.
Aleksandar Prijovic scored after coming on as a second-half substitute to cement Serbia’s place in Russia.
Prijovic struck the winner on 74 minutes in Belgrade as Serbia finished top of Group D.
“I think we deserved this, although it turned out that the last step was the most difficult one, but we succeeded,” coach Slavoljub Muslin said.
Prijovic said the goal was the most important in his career.
“It was a dream since my childhood to score an important goal for the state,” he said.