Monday 19 November 2018

Sigurdsson seals Iceland's World Cup dream

Iceland midfielders Gylfi Sigurdsson and Aron Gunnarsson celebate. Photo: Getty
Iceland midfielders Gylfi Sigurdsson and Aron Gunnarsson celebate. Photo: Getty Newsdesk Newsdesk

Gylfi Sigurdsson helped Iceland seal qualification for their first ever World Cup finals by scoring in an emotional 2-0 victory over Kosovo.

The Everton midfielder fired in a first-half opener before Johann Gudmundsson wrapped up victory in the second period to ensure Iceland finished a superb qualifying campaign top of Group I.

Iceland only missed out on the World Cup four years ago after losing to Croatia in the play-offs but this time the country with a population of 335,000 went one step further.

They became the smallest nation to reach a major tournament at Euro 2016, where they defeated England in the last 16 before going out to France.

Now ranked 22nd in the world, Heimir Hallgrimsson's side might fancy their chances of another surprise run in Russia, having lost only two of their 10 qualifying matches.

Croatia booked their place in the play-offs by winning 2-0 in Ukraine, cementing second place behind Iceland, while Finland's dead rubber with Turkey ended 2-2.

The first two places in Group G were already settled ahead of last night's matches but table-toppers Spain ended with a 1-0 victory away to Israel thanks to Asier Illarramendi's second-half strike.

Italy knew they would be heading into the play-offs and the four-time World Cup winners beat Albania 1-0 thanks to Inter Milan striker Antonio Candreva's goal, while Macedonia hammered bottom-side Liechtenstein 4-0.

"We need to show our Italian spirit," scorer Candreva said. "It's important for everybody to go to the World Cup.

"We have to stick together. We'll go again from here as we wait to see who the play-off opponent will be."

Irish Independent

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