The first party like never before as Iceland secured a spot at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, they topped Europe Group I and advanced automatically to the finals in Russia next year at the expense of favourite Croatia.
The smallest country With a population of just 335,000 ever to qualify for the World Cup after beating Kosovo 2-0 on Monday to ensure the islanders topped European qualifying Group I.
Trinidad & Tobago, which has a population of 1.3 million, was the previous smallest country to reach a World Cup back in 2006.
Predicting Iceland would now win the World Cup, humorous Icelandic website the Reykjavík Grapevine tweeted: “The Ice Age cometh.”
Iceland’s Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson was the epitome of diplomacy, tweeting: “To Russia with love.”
Gylfi Sigurdsson put the hosts ahead in the first half and Johann Gudmundsson made it 2-0 in the second.
Iceland won the group by two points from star-studded Croatia, which beat Ukraine 2-0 in Kiev.
Ukraine was third, Turkey fourth and Finland fifth.
Kosovo completed its maiden qualifying for a major tournament with a single point.
Iceland’s successful World Cup qualification comes less than 18 months after dumping England out of Euro 2016 to reach the quarterfinals before being beaten by France.
“Iceland have qualified for their first ever World Cup. They’re a bloody good side,” tweeted former England international Gary Lineker, who now works as a TV presenter. “Only losing 2-1 to them now looks a triumph…ish.” CNN report”.
Iceland also came close to earning qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, finishing second in their group to Switzerland before falling 2-0 on aggregate to Croatia in a play-off.
But after 12 failed qualifying campaigns 13 has proven the lucky number for the nation, who continue to show population size does not matter when it comes to excelling at international level.
Academic and author Viðar Halldórsson who wrote “Sport in Iceland: How small nations achieve international success” tweeted: “It’s not genes, it’s culture, organization and bunch of character!”
The island nation has just 20,000 registered footballers, male and female, making the nation one of the smallest playing pools on the planet.
But Iceland also boasts a UEFA-qualified coach per 500 inabitants, compared to one per 10,000 in England, and the country has gained acclaim for the standard of its coaching and youth development in recent years.
The commentator? Gudmundur Benediktsson became a household name (kinda) for his incredible reactions as Iceland defied the odds throughout the tournament, and will surely be called upon again for the World Cup.
“This is done! This is done! We are never going home! Did you see that? Amazing! I can’t believe it! This is a dream. Never wake me from this amazing dream!”