REUTERS - Alexander Ring scored a stunning early free kick for Finland as they beat Iceland 1-0 in Tampere on Saturday, dealing a severe blow to the visitors’ hopes of direct qualification for next year’s World Cup finals in Russia.
Iceland were second in Group I on 13 points coming into the game, with Croatia, who play bottom side Kosovo later on Saturday, ahead of them on goal difference, while Finland had mustered a single point from six qualifying matches.
The Finns were out for revenge after conceding two stoppage-time goals in Reykjavik to lose 3-2, and Ring gave them a good start when he struck home a beautiful free kick in the eighth minute.
Euro 2016 quarter-finalists Iceland bullied their way back into the game in the second half but lacked composure in the Finnish penalty area, wasting chance after chance.
Rurik Gislasson made Iceland’s task even harder by getting himself sent off with 15 minutes left after picking up two cards and the Finns hung on to record their first win of the campaign.
Iceland will try to get back on track on Tuesday when they host Ukraine, who play third-placed Turkey later on Saturday, while the Finns travel to fellow strugglers Kosovo.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor in Stockholm, editing by Ed Osmond