Iceland became the smallest country ever to qualify for the World Cup when they beat Kosovo 2-0 on 09 October 2017 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.
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. Iceland’s starting lineup included four players based in England’s second tier, two from the English Premier League, one from Italy’s Serie A and one each from the top flights of Denmark, Sweden, Scotland and Russia.
Iceland had to wait half an hour for their first real chance when Jon Bodvarsson’s far post header was easily saved by Samir Ujkani. Milot Rashica gave Iceland a fright with a long-range shot which flew past Hannes Halldorsson’s post but Iceland went ahead with their next attack and their first shot on target.