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Iceland On the Verge of Qualifying For First World Cup

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Iceland On the Verge of Qualifying For First World Cup

Iceland beats Croatia.

Photo: KSÍ/Facebook

Iceland faces Kosovo in a crucial 2018 World Cup qualifier in Group I at Laugardalsvöllur today at 18.45 GMT. If the Icelandic team beats Kosovo today they have secured their ticket to the World Cup in Russia. Iceland is already assured of at least making the play-offs, as no matter what happens today Iceland will not finish below 2nd place. Ukraine and Croatia face each other in a win-or-go-home matchup where the winner will be secured at least a play-off place. If the two teams draw then it is clear Iceland will advance to the World Cup finals no matter the outcome of Iceland vs. Kosovo.

By reaching the World Cup Iceland will be the smallest nation, by far, to have reached the World Cup as they will beat the previous record held by Trinidad and Tobago (a nation of 1.365 million people). The eyes of the footballing world are fixated on Iceland right now and representatives from foreign media such as BBC, New York Times, Russia Today, and The Guardian will be present at the match tonight. Let's take a look at all possible outcomes of the crucial match.

Iceland wins

1st in Group I. Iceland goes to the 2018 World Cup in Russia

Iceland draws

1st in Group I if Ukraine and Croatia draw
1st in Group I if Ukraine wins Croatia and finishes with the exact same goal difference (e.g. 14-7 or 15-8). Iceland goes to World Cup based on better results in matches played against Ukraine
2nd in Group I (play-offs*) if Croatia wins in Ukraine
2nd in Group I (play-offs) if Ukraine wins with more than one goal and has, therefore, a better goal difference. (As the Icelandic goal difference stays in place. Iceland also goes to the play-offs if Ukraine has the same goal difference as Iceland but more goals scored.)

Iceland loses

1st in Group I if Ukraine and Croatia draw
2nd in Group I (play-offs) if either Ukraine or Croatia wins.

*Play-offs - the eight best runners-up from the nine European qualifying groups advance to the play-offs, where they are drawn into four home-and-away ties as the winners will qualify for the World Cup

It looked like the dream of qualifying for the World Cup might falter when Iceland lost 1-0 against Finland in Helsinki. Strákarnir Okkar (e. Our Boys) have, however, recovered and they beat Turkey emphatically 0-3 to put them in pole position for World Cup qualification. If qualification is secured, it will be the second major tournament the men's side qualify for as they went to the EURO 2016 where they advanced to the quarterfinals. The women's side has previously reached the EURO Cup three times but the World Cup has eluded the Icelandic national football teams hitherto.

A special Fan Zone will be in place next to Laugardalsvöllur national stadium for the match tonight where the match will be broadcast on a jumbo-screen. Warm up for the match starts at 16.45, two hours before the match itself starts. Around 150 Kosovo fans are expected at the match tonight, which sold out in a matter of minutes. The Icelandic Meteorogical Office has predicted fine weather, for September in Iceland, as the temperature will be a fair 6° Celsius.

The Kosovo national team is competing for the first time in qualification for a major tournament and they have 1 point after 9 matches, having only scored three goals. Iceland previously beat Kosovo 1-2 in a tightly contested match played in neighbouring Albania.

Iceland has previously qualified for a tournament at home in September as qualification for the EURO 2016 was secured on the 6th of September in 2015. Azerbaijan were the foes in that particular match as Iceland secured qualification with a nail-biting 0-0 draw. The team had previously lost out on qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as Iceland lost against Croatia in the qualification play-offs.

Come on Iceland!

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