Iceland building off Euro 2016 success in WCup qualifying
Iceland is showing that its run to the European Championship quarterfinals was no fluke.
The small nation keeps surprising and Turkey was the latest victim at the Laugardalsvollur stadium in Reykjavik, beaten 2-0 thanks to two goals shortly before halftime Sunday in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
The first was an own-goal from center back Omer Toprak before Iceland forward Alfred Finnbogason scored with a volley 90 seconds later, hitting the back of the net for his third international game in succession.
Iceland went out to host France in the Euro 2016 quarterfinals. It reached the playoffs in 2014 World Cup qualification, losing to Croatia, which may prove its toughest opponent in the current qualifying campaign, too.
Coach Fatih Terim’s Turkey, meanwhile, now has just one win from its last seven games, continuing a miserable year which also included a group stage exit at the Euros.
Croatia and Iceland each have seven points but Croatia leads Group I on goal differential after its 1-0 win in Finland. Ukraine is two points back after a 3-0 victory over Kosovo, Turkey is next with two points while Finland is level with Kosovo at the bottom of the group on one point.
Only the nine group winners in Europe qualify directly for the tournament in Russia. The best eight group runner-ups advance to a playoff.
Wales and its star forward Gareth Bale hit a first major bump on the road to the World Cup.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for the Welsh, it was Georgia dealing the blow.
The Georgians haven’t lost to Wales in four meetings now after they recovered from conceding a 10th-minute goal to Bale to draw 1-1 against the Euro 2016 semifinalists. The first three matches between the countries all ended as wins for Georgia.
Georgia attacked in waves in the second half and Tornike Okriashvili equalized with a header in the 57th.
Serbia leads the group on goal differential ahead of Ireland after a 3-2 win over Austria. Wales is two points back and Austria trails by three. Georgia picked up its first point, while Moldova is bottom in the group.
Dusan Tadic scored a 74th-minute winner for Serbia in Belgrade.
Aleksandar Mitrovic twice gave Serbia the lead only for Marcel Sabitzer and Marc Janko to score equalizers for Austria, which had started the round on four points like Serbia.
In Moldova, James McClean scored two goals in the final 21 minutes to help unbeaten Ireland earn a 3-1 win.
Shane Long’s second-minute goal for Ireland was canceled out by Igor Bugaev in first-half injury time. McClean scored in the 69th and 76th minutes.
Italy kept Spain from opening a significant advantage atop the group by scoring two late goals and salvaging a 3-2 win at Macedonia.
Spain got off to a slow start at Albania but eased to a 2-0 victory behind second-half goals by Diego Costa and Manuel “Nolito” Agudo.
Italy needed an injury-time goal by Ciro Immobile to secure the hard-fought win that allowed it to join Spain atop the group with seven points.
Albania stayed on six points along with Israel, which beat Liechtenstein 2-1. Macedonia and Liechtenstein remain without a point after three matches.
Croatia stayed atop the group with a 1-0 win at Finland.
Mario Mandzukic hasn’t had much luck in front of goal for Juventus this season, but he can’t stop scoring for his country.
Fresh off a hat trick against Kosovo, the Croatia star scored the only goal of the game in Finland with a simple finish from point-blank range.
Meanwhile, it’s been a tough life on the road for new FIFA member Kosovo.
The loss to Ukraine in a game staged in Poland meant the Kosovans have conceded nine goals this week at neutral venues.
Fresh off a 6-0 “home” loss to Croatia which was actually played in Albania because Kosovo still doesn’t have a certified stadium, Kosovo had to face Ukraine in Poland because the Ukrainian government doesn’t recognize the tiny Balkan nation’s independence.
Artem Kravets, Andriy Yarmolenko and Ruslan Rotan scored for Ukraine.