Iceland and Republic of Ireland registered wins over Kosovo and Wales respectively in their final group games of the qualifying round as they secured unlikely qualifications into World Cup finals. Wales suffered a major heartbreak as their domineering display ended up in an abrasive defeat.
Wales 0-1 Ireland
Wales’ momentous achievement last year, when they reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016, turned to ashes once again on Monday morning as they suffered a near miss for the 2018 World Cup finals once again. At a vociferous Cardiff City Stadium, Aaron Ramsey and company had started the game in a domineering manner but were often frustrated by Republic of Ireland’s rugged physicality.
With every missed chance by Wales, the visitors grew confident and their full-throttled attack paid off in the second half when James McClean scored a thumping volley from Jeff Hendrick. Despite a desperate search for two goals in the dying minutes, Ireland’s unflinching defence worked the trick.
The victory sends them into the qualifying play-offs from Group D as they sit in the second position behind Serbia with 19 points.
Israel 0-1 Spain
The game had nothing to influence the Group G standings as Spain had already qualified for the finals and Israel had long been out of contention for a playoff place. Spain manager, Julen Lopetegui, had made nine changes to his side from their 3-0 win over Albania last game, and quite understandably the Reds lacked their flair.
The possession nonetheless remained Spain’s strongest forte and it paid off quite late in the game when Real Sociedad’s Asier Illarramendi scored the winning and only goal of the game with a stunning half-volley. This marked Spain’s ninth win in the last 10 qualifying games.
Iceland 2-0 Kosovo
Iceland had a historic win over Kosovo as they secured a place in the World Cup finals. Heimir Hallgrimsson’s side became the smallest nation ever to progress to a World Cup. Iceland had shown signs of dominance in the Euro 2016 when they knocked out England in the last 16, and they have kept their momentum going since then.
Goals from English Premier League players Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton) and Johann Gudmundsson (Burnley) were enough for them to qualify from Group I as toppers. Sigurdsson had settled the nerves with a neat finish just before the half-time and then became the provider for the second goal as Gudmundsson ensured victory with a close-range strike.
Albania 0-1 Italy
Finland 2-2 Turkey
Macedonia 4-0 Liechtenstein
Moldova 0-1 Austria
Serbia 1-0 Georgia
Ukraine 0-2 Croatia