Iceland managed to hold on to second place in UEFA World Cup qualifying Group E and secure a playoff place with a 1-1 draw in Norway on Tuesday. If the tiny nation of 315,000 wins next month’s two-leg series against either Portugal, Croatia, Ukraine or Greece, it would become the smallest-ever nation to qualify for the World Cup. After the game, coach Lars Lagerback spoke with reporters.
“Of course I could not see this coming when I began training the team but we talked to the players in January when we started this journey. We had a realistic chance to make the top two and you never know in soccer -- but this has gone better and better,” the former Sweden coach said, adding: “I do not have any particular opponent I want to meet in the play-offs. We are still trying to figure out which teams are there. I do not think there is that much difference between the play-off teams so we will take what we get, then we will really start to prepare and hope we can maybe come up with more surprises.”
Tottenham midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson sang his coach’s praises after guiding Iceland to its first-ever UEFA World Cup playoff. "[Lagerback’ has been fantastic since he joined the team," Sigurdsson said. “He has brought experience from earlier qualifying campaigns and finals with Sweden and Nigeria."