Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Sports

Lilliputian Iceland keeps advancing in Euros

SAINT-DENIS, France — A winning goal in the final seconds. A spot in the knockout stage. The chance to play in the round of 16 against England.

It just doesn't get better for tiny Iceland.

In the feel-good story of the European Championship, the smallest nation ever to compete at the tournament beat Austria 2-1 Wednesday to advance from Group F.

The reward from the greatest day in Iceland's soccer history: a match against their heroes from England in Nice on Monday.

"Icelanders know everything about English football," Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson said. "We are English football crazy."

Arnor Ingvi Traustason clinched the win in the fourth minute of stoppage time for Iceland, an island country of barely 330,000 people (a little smaller than Tampa). Traustason finished off a counterattack as the Austrians piled forward in search of the goal.

After bundling the ball into the net in the last play of the game, Traustason found himself buried under a heap of Iceland players, substitutes and officials who had sprinted onto the field to celebrate. The whole squad then ran across the field to jump in front of their jubilant fans.

"It's like having your family at the game," Iceland defender Kari Arnason said of the team's 10,000 supporters. "I know probably 50 percent of our crowd, or recognize them."

Elsewhere:

• Ireland advanced to the knockout stage for the first time after it beat a reshuffled Italian side 1-0 in Lille, France. An 85th-minute late goal from Robbie Brady was enough for Ireland to secure a place in the round of 16 as one of the best third-place teams. Its reward is a match against France in Lyon on Sunday.

• Portugal's Ronaldo erupted from his scoring slump, netting his first two goals at the tournament and putting his team into the round of 16. Ronaldo's strikes, the first with a spectacular back heel and the second with a header, helped Portugal earn a 3-3 draw with Hungary in Lyon, sending both teams through.

• Zlatan Ibrahimovic played his last game for Sweden in a 1-0 loss to Belgium in Nice. Belgium advanced to play Hungary on Sunday in Toulouse.

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