World Cup: Spain, England qualify; Iceland nabs playoff spot
Defending champion Spain qualified for next year's World Cup on Tuesday, as did England, Russia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. For B-H, it will be their first-ever World Cup.
(The moment Iceland players earned their playoff spot, courtesy of Sigurjon Jonsson)
Defending World Cup champion Spain qualified for next year’s tournament in Brazil on Tuesday, as did England and Russia. Bosnia-Herzegovina also finished atop their group with a 1-0 win over Lithuania, ensuring their first-ever World Cup appearance.
Spain advanced with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Georgia, extending an unbeaten streak of 53 straight matches in qualifiers. The win relegated France to the playoffs.
Goals from veterans Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard also booked England its ticket to Brazil with a 2-0 victory over Poland. By winning Group H, England sealed its fifth-straight trip to the World Cup.
They held off second-place Ukraine, which will take part in next month’s playoffs. The other seven teams vying for four European spots will be Portugal, Iceland, Greece, Romania, Sweden, Croatia and France.
Russia drew 1-1 against Azerbaijan, but the one point was all it needed to win Group F, leaving Portugal in second.
As for Bosnia-Herzgovina, their 1-0 win over Lithuania sealed a spot in next year's tournament and set off jubilant celebration. A few of the coaches and players cried after holding onto the lead and advancing over second-place Greece based off goal differential.
"What an excellent night," Bosnian coach Safet Susic said to The Guardian. "The players believed they could do it, I believed in them and we made it."
"The game against Lithuania was even tougher than we had expected. It would've been a shame if we had failed to go straight through," he added. "We scored 30 goals in qualification while the Greeks only got 12. So in the end it all worked out."
While Bosnia-Herzegovina will certainly be underdogs in next year's 32-team field, the best story was saved for Iceland, which reached the playoffs by virtue of a 1-1 draw at Norway, finishing second to Switzerland in Group E.
Should Iceland qualify, it would become the smallest nation to ever reach the World Cup, and if you didn't see the video of the players celebrating up top, go watch and enjoy.
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