Following on from their unprecedented success at Euro 2016, Iceland booked their place at the World Cup 2018 finals in Russia, and in the process became the smallest nation to ever do so.
With a population of 335,000 people, Iceland are four times smaller than any other nation to have ever qualified for the World Cup finals – Trinidad & Tobago being the next, with a population of 1.37 million.
Goals from English-based Gylfi Sigurdsson and Johann Berg Gudmundsson against World Cup qualifying newcomers Kosovo earned the country their automatic place in the finals after finishing top of their group.
They won seven of their 10 games played in Group I.
Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson, who also works as a part-time dentist, had initially expressed concern over his country’s ability to motivate themselves ahead of another qualifying campaign after their amazing, and unexpected, exploits at Euro 2016 – where they stunned their fellow European nations, including knocking out England in a confident display.
Group I was a competitive group too, with no superstar nations, but five very competent nations – Croatia, Turkey, Ukraine and Finland, as well as Iceland – and newcomers Kosovo.
Following qualificaiton, captain Aron Gunnarsson, of Cardiff City, and his team joined in with the crowd’s now-famous Viking clap to salute victory.
Kosovo manager Albert Bunjaki was full of praise for Iceland following the match, saying their success was an inspiration for all small nations.
“Congratulations to the whole Iceland team,” said Bunjaki, whose country’s population is about six times larger than Iceland’s.
“It’s a great example for small nations like our own who aim to have a good team, well organised, in the future.”