Iceland successfully claimed a place in the 2018 World Cup as group winner and became the country with the smallest population ever in the history of the four-year grand tournament.
Gylfi Sigurdsson and Johann Berg Gudmundsson scored to deliver a 2-0 win over Kosovo on Monday night. Thus, Iceland scored a record of seven wins, one draw and two defeats – two points ahead of Croatia at the top of Group I eurozone to qualify automatically for Russia.
With approximately 335,000 inhabitants, Iceland is stunningly officially the smallest country to appear in the World Cup, beating Trinidad & Tobago, which at the 2006 World Cup was recorded as the team with the lowest population of 1.3 million.
Northern Ireland, the last of which escaped in 1982, has a population of 1.5 million, followed by Slovenia [2002, only 2 million] and Kuwait [1982, 2 million] that complement the top five smallest countries in the World Cup.
Incredibly, Iceland only has 20,000 footballers, both men and women, who make the country one of the world’s smallest sporting events.
However, Iceland also has qualified coaches with UEFA standards per 500 inhabitants, compared to the one per 10,000 UK. The country has been recognized for the standards of development and coaching of young players in recent years.
After years of appearing as a mediocre team in World Cup qualifying, their investments started to produce at senior level.
Tickets to next year’s World Cup are a barrage of Icelandic glory after securing a place at the 2016 European Championships for the first time – in which they made a surprise by beating England 2-1 to advance to the quarter-finals.
Iceland also briefly narrowly escaped to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, ending the qualifying round in second place before finally beating 2-0 at the Swiss leg in the play-off phase.
However, after 12 unsuccessful attempts at qualifying, the 13th has been a luck to them. With the smallest population, they are now ready to hit the international level.
2018 World Cup will be the first experience for Iceland to appear in this four-year-old football tournament. The bad news for Iceland, the drawing results of the group put them one group with one of the favorite champions, Argentina in Group D as well as Croatia and Nigeria.
Bad because the opportunity of a country of no more than 350 thousand inhabitants is escaped from the group phase becomes heavy. After all, the draw was responded to casually by Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson. Knew one group with Argentina and Croatia and Nigeria.
It seems there is no team of 2018 World Cup participants who hope to meet Argentina with Lionel Messi in the first game. However, Iceland will experience it. The first country to appear in this World Cup will face Argentina in the first match in Moscow, June 16, 2018.
Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson, calling on players and also Icelandic supporters will be happy to face Argentina who have twice become World Cup champions. “It (the match against Argentina) will be romantic and also fun. They have a connection with the romanticism of the World Cup, “he said quoted.