Iceland make major finals for first time

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The tiny island nation of Iceland made history this week as they qualified for the France 2016 by securing the point they needed against Kazakhstan. 

With a population of just 317,000 it is a remarkable achievement, and they haven't just sneaked in through the back door. They have qualified automatically in a tough group, including fellow qualifiers Czech Republic, Turkey and European football giants the Netherlands. 

In fact, the Islanders top the group as it stands and along with the Czech Republic they have relegated Turkey and The Netherlands to a fight for a playoff third place spot. And with the Dutch side being beaten handsomely by Turkey, 3-0, on Sunday and seeing themselves in fourth place, it is likely that the Orange Army won't be at the tournament finals next year.


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Smaller countries are making big impression   

Usually we just see England leading the British charge at major championships, but it seems that they may have plenty of Home Nation company next summer.

Wales' party had to be put on hold as they failed to beat Israel in Cardiff and Belgium scored late to see off Cyprus to postpone the Welsh celebrations. But with just one more point needed from their last two games, Wales can all but book their tickets to France. It will be their first major tournament appearance since the World Cup of 1958 and their first at an European finals.

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Across the Irish sea Northern Ireland are also looking to end a long major finals drought as they currently top group F. Their baron spell hasn't stretched as far as Wales but it is thirty years since they qualified for the world cup of 1986, and like Wales, they have never been to an Euro finals. With two games to go, their fate is in their hands.

Since we will see 24 countries instead of 16 fighting it out for European glory under a year from now, here are a few more teams that could make it, that we may be unfamiliar with.

Israel are currently trying to shore up a play-off place in Wales' group and hold off Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mexico 1970 is the only time Israel have made it to a major finals.

Albania have secured a play-off place in group I and they have never qualified for a major championships.

Other countries that usually aren't expected to qualify and have an outside chance are Scotland, Estonia, Hungary, Finland and Montenegro.

What ever happens, next year's tournament will host countries and fans that could once only have dreamed of making a finals, which can only grow and promote the games in those lesser footballing nations.

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