Serbia's Aleksandar Prijovic celebrates after scoring on October 9, 2017

Belgrade (AFP) - Aleksandar Prijovic scored after coming on as a second-half substitute to steer Serbia to a 1-0 win over Georgia and secure a place at next year’s World Cup finals.

Prijovic struck the winner on 74 minutes in Belgrade as Serbia finished top of European qualifying Group D, with the Republic of Ireland heading to the play-offs after a 1-0 victory over Wales in Cardiff.

“I think we deserved this, although it turned out that the last step was the most difficult one, but we succeeded,” coach Slavoljub Muslin said.

Prijovic said the goal was the most important in his career.

“It was a dream since (my) childhood to score an important goal for the state,” Prijovic said.

After a poor first half, Serbia dominated in the second period, twice going close, including when Nemanja Matic’s attempt was cleared off the goalline.

Serbia had missed out on a chance to wrap up qualification with a match to spare last week as Louis Schaub struck a minute from time to give Austria a 3-2 victory in Vienna.

But they seized their second chance to end an eight-year absence from the finals of a major tournament, having last qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.