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Group I round-up: Iceland on the brink of World Cup

by 06/10/2017 19:45:00 0 comments 1 Views
  • Iceland eliminated Turkey with a win which leaves them on brink of Russia 2018
  • Victory in Eskisehir means Iceland can confirm qualification by beating Kosovo
  • Croatia face Ukraine in the final round of fixtures with winner reaching play-offs 
  • Ukraine need to beat Croatia in Kiev to finish second with sides both on 17 points 

By Reuters

Published: 19:45 EDT, 6 October 2017 | Updated: 19:45 EDT, 6 October 2017

Iceland secured a resounding 3-0 victory in Turkey on Friday, ending the home side's hopes of reaching next year's World Cup and putting the visitors on course to qualify directly from Group I.

With one game to play, the win put Iceland top of the group on 19 points, two ahead of Croatia, who drew 1-1 with Finland. Ukraine also rose to 17 points after beating Kosovo, while Turkey were left on 14 points and out of contention.

Johann Gudmundsson put Iceland ahead in the 32nd minute, latching on to a cross from Jon Bodvarsson at the back post to fire the ball past Volkan Babacan in the Turkish goal.

Iceland are on the brink of qualifying for their first World Cup following victory in Turkey
Iceland are on the brink of qualifying for their first World Cup following victory in Turkey

Iceland are on the brink of qualifying for their first World Cup following victory in Turkey

Iceland's goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson celebrates his team's victory against Turkey
Iceland's goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson celebrates his team's victory against Turkey

Iceland's goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson celebrates his team's victory against Turkey

The visitors doubled their lead seven minutes later when Bodvarsson slipped the ball between two defenders to Birkir Bjarnason who fired the ball beyond Babacan, drawing boos from the raucous crowd in the northwestern Turkish city of Eskisehir.

Turkey's hopes of fighting their way back into the game were dashed early in the second half when Kari Arnason knocked the ball in from close range in the 49th minute, after a corner was headed back across the goal mouth by Aron Gunnarsson.

The pattern was set early in the match as Turkey's efforts to break down the solid-looking Iceland defence bore little fruit and the visitors repeatedly looked to hit Turkey on the counter attack.

After the third goal, Iceland were content to sit back and absorb the pressure from Turkey for much of the second half as the hosts looked to salvage pride, but even a consolation goal eluded them.

Victory for Iceland would secure qualification but they are guaranteed a top-two finish
Victory for Iceland would secure qualification but they are guaranteed a top-two finish

Victory for Iceland would secure qualification but they are guaranteed a top-two finish

Turkey's hopes of reaching the World Cup went up in smoke after a damaging reverse
Turkey's hopes of reaching the World Cup went up in smoke after a damaging reverse

Turkey's hopes of reaching the World Cup went up in smoke after a damaging reverse

Iceland top the group and can seal their place in Russia with a win over Kosovo on Monday
Iceland top the group and can seal their place in Russia with a win over Kosovo on Monday

Iceland top the group and can seal their place in Russia with a win over Kosovo on Monday

REMAINING FIXTURES 

Monday October 9  

Finland vs Turkey

Iceland vs Kosovo

Ukraine vs Croatia

Iceland will host Kosovo in their final game while Croatia will play away against Ukraine. Turkey will travel to Finland for their last game. 

Meanwhile, Ukraine revived their World Cup qualifying hopes and set up a pivotal tie with Croatia when they defied rain-soaked conditions to win 2-0 away to bottom side Kosovo in their World Cup qualifier on Friday.

An own goal from Leart Paqarada on the hour set Ukraine on the way in the Group I match before Andriy Yarmolenko sealed their win to put them level on 17 points with second-placed Croatia, who were surprisingly held 1-1 at home by Finland.

With leaders Iceland (19 points) hosting Kosovo on Monday and set to top the group, Ukraine's meeting with Croatia in Kiev is likely to decide who earns second place and a possible spot in the European playoff round. 

Ukraine celebrate scoring in the 2-0 victory against bottom of the table Kosovo on Friday
Ukraine celebrate scoring in the 2-0 victory against bottom of the table Kosovo on Friday

Ukraine celebrate scoring in the 2-0 victory against bottom of the table Kosovo on Friday

Both teams played in torrential rain at the Loro Borici Stadium in Shkoder
Both teams played in torrential rain at the Loro Borici Stadium in Shkoder

Both teams played in torrential rain at the Loro Borici Stadium in Shkoder

It was a laboured performance from Ukraine although it might have been easier if Yevhen Konoplyanka's first-half solo effort had gone in rather than striking the woodwork.

A disciplined Kosovo did well to frustrate the visitors until Konoplyanka crossed to the far post and the hapless Paqarada turned the ball into his own net.

Yarmolenko wrapped things up with en emphatic finish three minutes from the end.

The winners of the nine European groups qualify directly for Russia next year and the best eight runners-up play off for four more places.

Croatia dented their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup by conceding a 90th-minute equaliser in a 1-1 home draw with Finland in Group I on Friday, which knocked their fate out of their hands.

Late substitute Pyry Soiri celebrated his international debut for Finland with a fine finish which silenced the home crowd, who then jeered the Croatians off the pitch after a tepid performance.

The 23-year-old's volley from eight metres cancelled out Mario Mandzukic's 57th-minute opener after the home side missed a string of chances in the first half.

The Croatian players celebrate Mario Mandzukic's opener but they were pegged back 
The Croatian players celebrate Mario Mandzukic's opener but they were pegged back 

The Croatian players celebrate Mario Mandzukic's opener but they were pegged back 

Croatia's fate is not in their hands regarding automatic qualification after Pyry Soiri struck
Croatia's fate is not in their hands regarding automatic qualification after Pyry Soiri struck

Croatia's fate is not in their hands regarding automatic qualification after Pyry Soiri struck

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