REYKJAVIK: Euro 2016 upstarts Iceland produced another memorable win on Sunday when they beat Croatia with a last-minute goal to go level on points with their opponents at the top of their World Cup qualifying group.
A fortuitous goal off Hordur Magnusson’s shoulder in the 90th minute sparked delirious celebrations at the modest Laugardalsvollur stadium as Iceland showed they still have the knack for pulling off an upset.
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 playoff round with the winners of the four ties also going to Russia.
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 the stranded Lovre Kalinic.
Iceland, with a population of 330,000, caused a sensation when they reached the quarter-finals at Euro 2016 in their first participation at a major finals, beating Austria and England and drawing with Hungary and Portugal on the way.
A goalless draw looked on the cards for much of Sunday’s game.
Nikola Kalinic and Marcelo Brozovic both had chances for Croatia early in the second half before Iceland’s attack sprang into action.
Gylfi Sigurdsson fired over the crossbar, albeit from a difficult angle, and was denied again shortly afterwards when his volley was deflected away by Domagoj Vida.
Volkan Sen gave Turkey an early lead in their away match against Kosovo, which was played in neutral Albania, but they got a fright when Amir Rrahmani headed the hosts level in the 22nd minute.
Cengiz Under took advantage of sloppy Kosovo marking to head Turkey back in front nine minutes later.
Burak Yilmaz scored his 23rd international goal on his 50th appearance just after the hour and Ozan Tufan finished off a well-worked Turkish move for the fourth eight minutes from time.
A 75th minute header from Artem Besedin gave Ukraine the points in Finland, two minutes after substitute Joel Pohjanpalo had put the hosts level.
Yevheniy Konoplyanka opened the scoring for Ukraine when he swept home a rebound in the 51st minute. --REUTERS