2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

14 June - 15 July

Iceland draw in Oslo, reach play-offs


Iceland are 180 minutes away from reaching a major tournament for the first time after booking a play-off place with a 1-1 draw in Norway.

The minnows, who would be the smallest country to ever reach a FIFA World Cup™ with a population of around 320,000, went to Oslo knowing they needed to match whatever third-placed Slovenia did in Group E. As it was they bettered that, taking a point as Slovenia missed their chance and lost, meaning Daniel Braaten's Norweigian equaliser after Kolbeinn Sigthorsson's opener mattered little.

It represents a real achievement for Iceland and for their coach Lars Lagerback - a man steeped in Scandinavian football - although the real work is now to come.

They were not to know how Slovenia would fare before kick-off, and they will not have enjoyed the rocky opening to the game they had to endure. Braaten hit wide for Norway with three minutes gone, while Hannes Thor Halldorson made his first save within seconds as Tarik Elyounoussi ripped a shot in.

Ola Kamara then had a hit blocked by Kari Arnason, but the pressure was relieved in one fell swoop in the 12th minute. Tottenham's Gylfi Sigurdsson threaded a pass through from the left and Sigthorsson did the rest from 12 yards.

Norway did not deserve to be behind and on the stroke of the half-hour they got back on terms. Braaten was the man, finishing crisply after Per Ciljan Skjelbred's cut-back.

The sting went out of the game after that and both sides struggled for openings until veteran Eidur Gudjohnsen drew a brilliant diving save from Rune Almenning Jarstein as the hour-mark approached,

The goalkeeper then kept out Birkir Bjarnason but as news of Switzerland winning came through, the mood changed amongst the Iceland contingent.

Bjarnason would have added to the joy had he shown better poise from 12 yards, while at the other end Stefan Johansen showed Norway remained a force with a close-run-thing.

Kolbeinn Sigthorsson was another to go close to a second but it did not matter as Switzerland's game ended and Iceland's progression to the play-offs was confirmed.