Iceland become smallest nation to qualify for World Cup

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A 2-0 victory over Kosovo was enough for the nation of some 335,000 people to reach the 2018 finals in Russia, setting a new record in the process

Iceland have secured a spot at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, becoming the smallest nation by population to ever qualify for the showpiece event.

Gylfi Sigurdsson and Johann Berg Gudmundsson scored as Iceland earned a 2-0 victory against Kosovo on Monday, giving the team a record of seven wins, one draw and two defeats — two points clear of Croatia for the top spot in Group I of UEFA World Cup qualifying.

Iceland 200/1 to win World Cup

With some 335,000 residents, Iceland easily bested Trinidad & Tobago's population of 1.3 million in 2006 to become the smallest nation to secure passage to the World Cup finals.

Northern Ireland, who last qualified in 1982 with a population of 1.5m, Slovenia (2002, just under 2m) and Kuwait (1982, 2m) complete the top five. 

Incredibly, 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.

And after years of mediocre performances in qualifying competition, that investment is beginning to pay off at the senior level.

Iceland GFX

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The World Cup appearance comes after Iceland marked their first trip to the European Championship in 2016, earning a famous 2-1 win over England en route to a quarter-final run.

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.

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