Surprise package Iceland defy the odds yet again

Iceland defender Hordur Magnusson (kneeling) celebrating his last-gasp winner against Croatia with team-mates Rurik Gislason and Ragnar Sigurdsson. Croatia remain on top of Group I, but only on goal difference, with just two points separating the top
Iceland defender Hordur Magnusson (kneeling) celebrating his last-gasp winner against Croatia with team-mates Rurik Gislason and Ragnar Sigurdsson. Croatia remain on top of Group I, but only on goal difference, with just two points separating the top four teams.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

REYKJAVIK • Euro 2016 upstarts Iceland produced another memorable win on Sunday when they beat Croatia 1-0 with a last-minute goal to go level on points with their more fancied opponents at the top of their World Cup qualifying group.

A fortuitous goal off Hordur Magnusson's shoulder in the 90th minute sparked wild celebrations at the Laugardalsvollur stadium, as Iceland showed they still have the knack for pulling off an upset.

"I thought I scored the goal of my life against Ireland," Bristol City defender Magnusson tweeted, referring to his first goal for Iceland during a friendly last year. "Guess this one tops the lot. On we go."

Croatia and Iceland both have 13 points from six games in Group I, although the Croatians have a better goal difference.

The pair are two points ahead of Turkey, who beat Kosovo 4-1, and Ukraine, 2-1 winners in Finland, in an increasingly tense group.

The group winners qualify directly for the World Cup next year. The eight best runners-up in the nine European groups go into a play-off round with the winners of the four ties also going to Russia.

  • QUALIFYING RESULTS

  • GROUP  D

    Ireland 1 Austria 1

    Moldova 2 Georgia 2

    Serbia 1 Wales 1

    GROUP G

    Macedonia 1 Spain 2

    Israel 0 Albania 3

    Italy 5 Liechtenstein 0

    GROUP I

    Finland 1 Ukraine 2

    Iceland 1 Croatia 0

    Kosovo 1 Turkey 4

Magnusson's goal came from only the third shot on target of the match. The defender got up at a corner and missed the ball with his head, but it hit his shoulder and looped into the net past stranded Croatia keeper Lovre Kalinic.

Iceland, with a population of 330,000, caused a sensation when they reached the Euro 2016 quarter-finals in their first participation at a major finals, beating Austria and England, and drawing with Hungary and Portugal on the way.

Wales, another debutant at last year's European Championship, kept alive their hopes of reaching Russia after battling out a tense 1-1 draw with Serbia in an absorbing Group D qualifier on Sunday.

Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic equalised late on with a close-range finish after Wales, without suspended talisman Gareth Bale and several other regulars, took the lead through Aaron Ramsey's first-half penalty in a hostile atmosphere.

Wales manager Chris Coleman said he was happy with the outcome - which left Serbia top on 12 points from six games, ahead of Ireland on goal difference. However, he conceded that his side need to win all their remaining games to qualify for their second successive major tournament.

Wales are third on eight points each with four rounds left.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2017, with the headline 'Surprise package Iceland defy the odds yet again'. Print Edition | Subscribe