Iceland Smallest Nation Enters FIFA World Cup

The Iceland team celebrates after winning their FIFA World Cup qualifier against Kosovo

In sealing their berth to Russian Federation 2018, Iceland will beat the previous record for the smallest nation in terms of population to appear at a World Cup.

With Iceland coasting to a 2-0 victory over Kosovo to win the group on 22 points, Croatia took second place on 20 with the Ukrainians finishing in third on 17. At Euro 2016, Iceland shocked the world with a run all the way to the quarterfinals.

"It is incredible for us to qualify for the World Cup".

The previous smallest nation to qualify were Trinidad & Tobago (technically two nations in one) who made it to Germany 2006 with a population of 1.37 million.

Iceland topped the group by two points, moving ahead of clear-favorite Croatia, leaving behind star-studded Ukraine which was third, Turkey at fourth and Finland at fifth.

Iceland fans celebrate in Reykjavik
Iceland fans celebrate in Reykjavik

While Ireland remain on course for a first World Cup finals appearance since 2002, surprise Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales saw their dream of a first appearance at the tournament since 1958 turn to dust.

The Eagles, captained by former Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic, were uninspiring in Belgrade but their 1-0 win against Georgia was enough to clinch top spot and ensure automatic qualification.

In Group D, the Republic of Ireland also snatched a play-off spot by edging their winner-takes-all clash with Wales 1-0.

After the game against Kosovo, Iceland head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson said it was a odd feeling that his team would now be mentioned in the same breath as former World Cup greats. We just go to the World Cup, that's all that matters.

Italy - already certain of a play-off place behind Spain - ended their campaign with a 1-0 over Albania in Shkoder, Antonio Candreva scoring in the 73rd minute. Albert Bunjaki, coach of the Kosovo team beaten 2-0 to secure Iceland's place, lauded the victors as "a great example for small nations like our own", and there was evident disbelief in the immediate aftermath.

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