The final rounds of the World Cup qualification are heating up beautifully as two more teams from Europe confirmed their place in next year’s world cup in Russia.
In a what is an extraordinary story, Euro Cup quarter finalists Iceland became the country with the smallest population to ever make it to the finals of the FIFA World Cup. The country with a population of 332,529 repeated their incredible performance from last European Championships to make it to their first ever FIFA competition in front of a jam packed Laugardalsvöllur in Reykjavik. Two goals in either halves by Gylfi Sigurðsson and Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson (against Kosovo in their final qualifier) propelled them to victory. Group I in UEFA qualifiers consisted of Croatia, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland and Kosovo alongside the Strákarnir okkar. The fact that they pipped three very talented Croatian, Ukrainian and Turkish sides to qualify directly makes their qualification even more special.
In the other match of importance in the group, Croatia defeated Ukraine in Kiev courtesy of two Andrej Kramaric strikes to ensure the Blazers play-off berth at the expense of the host.
In group D, Serbia beat Georgia 1-0 to book their tickets for Russia 2018. Aleksandar Prijovic scored the all important goal in the 74th minute at the Red Star Stadium. Formerly known as Yugoslavia, their best finish came in 1930 when they finished 4th. They were last seen on the big stage in 2010 when they were eliminated in the group stages.
In the other match of importance in the group at the Cardiff City Stadium, James McClean’s 57th minute strike was enough to dash Wales’ world cup dreams and book the Republic of Ireland’s ticket to the play-offs.
These results also mean that Slovakia will not be making to the play-offs as they will be remaining as the 9th ranked second placed team among the 9 groups. As it currently stands, Italy, Denmark, Croatia, Northern Ireland, Greece and the Republic of Ireland are confirmed for the play-offs. The loser of Switzerland versus Portugal will be joining the six alongside one amongst France, Sweden and Holland. The last round of matches from Groups A, B and H will be played tomorrow.
Photo by jkbrooks85