Iceland Shock Europe by Qualifying for World Cup Playoff Round

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Iceland Shock Europe by Qualifying for World Cup Playoff Round
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Fans of footballing underdogs, rejoice! Iceland are through into the UEFA World Cup Qualification Playoffs, after drawing 1-1 with Norway to confirm their second-place finish in Group E.

Lars Lagerback's men may not be seeded in the draw to decide whom they will face in their two-legged showdown, but with temperatures in Iceland set to drop dramatically in November, they may be able to boast a potent home advantage to set them on their way to Brazil.

Touted as the most important match in the country's football history, before the game it looked as though UEFA's remote North Sea outpost would have to beat their overseas Scandinavian neighbours to ensure themselves of a place in the playoffs.    

Although their Norwegian hosts may have already been eliminated from the running, with pride, bragging rights and the favour of a home crowd at stake, the tie was far from straightforward.

Norway's team were also out for revenge, with their defeat away to Iceland in the first game of Group E setting Brede Hangeland and his compatriots on course to miss their target of qualifying for the summer.

Yet early on, with neutrals across Europe urging them on from their TV sets and Twitter accounts, Iceland were 1-0 up and at the brink of making history.

Kolbeinn Sigthorsson was the scorer, with the 23-year-old Ajax striker hitting the back of the net after just 12 minutes in Oslo.

Their advantage didn't last long, with Daniel Braaten equalising on the 30-minute mark.

With Slovenia, Iceland's rivals for the second-place playoff spot, in action against Switzerland in Basel, everything hung in the balance.

Attentions quickly turned to the likes of Tottenham Hotspur's Gylfi Sigurdsson and former Chelsea and Barcelona striker Eidur Gudjohnsen to find the decisive intervention to seal their passage into the two-legged playoff deciders.

Unfortunately the breakthrough never came, but with Slovenia drawing with Switzerland they needn't have to be worried.

In fact, the Swiss, although having already qualified as the undisputed group winners, went on to beat Iceland's playoff rivals 1-0, with Lagerback and his team's 1-1 draw enough to send them to utopia.

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Having overcome the biggest night ever in Icelandic football to reach the playoffs, the national team now has two even more important matches to look forward to against such potential opponents as Croatia, France and Portugal.

The identity of their gate-keepers to Brazil will be decided in the UEFA World Cup qualification playoff draw on Monday, October 21.

Iceland's new-found legion of admirers and well-wishers will be waited on bated breath to see who they will face.

 

Can Iceland make it all the way to Brazil? Who do you think they would prefer to face in the playoffs?

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