FOOTBALL fans excitement has reached fever pitch across the continent following the culmination of the European qualification competition for the 2018 World Cup.

The process appeared to demonstrate a changing of the guard, with unfancied Iceland qualifying, while footballing superpowers Italy and Holland missed out.

Iceland will be joined by hosts Russia, France, Portugal, Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Croatia, Sweden and Denmark.

It was the first time since 1958 that the Azzurri had failed to qualify for a World Cup after their 1-0 playoff loss to Sweden.

The game also marked the last appearance in the legendary international career of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, the most capped player in Italian history, with 175 appearances.

The blame should be “divided equally among us all,” said a tearful Buffon, following his side’s elimination.

The Italians have won the World Cup four times, making them the second most successful team in the tournament’s history, behind Brazil.

Bookmakers have Germany, Brazil and Spain down as the favourites while England
are also worth a flutter at 20/1.

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