Iceland v Croatia preview
Iceland are eyeing the “biggest success” in their history as they look to make the last 16 of the World Cup against Croatia on Tuesday.
The Icelanders must beat Croatia – who are already through to the knockout rounds – in their final group game to give themselves the chance of qualification and currently have a better goal difference than Argentina.
Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson says a spot in the last 16 would be a big achievement for the national team, and described how impressed he has been with their Group D opponents.
“For nations like Argentina, Portugal, Germany, it would be a shock not to qualify, for the final 16. If we managed to qualify for the final 16 it would probably be the biggest success in the short Icelandic football history,” he said.
“They’ve done amazingly in the first two games. The players are enjoying to play under the coach [Zlatko Dalic] and I think we have to give them a lot of credit for the way they started this competition. They deserve to go all the way if they keep on playing this way.”
For Croatia, they will need just a point to top the group, but coach Zlatko Dalic says his side will be targeting a victory.
“We want to beat Iceland to stay top of our group. We have our own style of play and we are going to stick to it while being watchful on their long balls and set pieces,” he said. “We know everything about Iceland and they know everything about us.”
Iceland centre-back Ragnar Sigurdsson is a doubt after being forced off against Nigeria with a head injury while Johann Berg Gudmundsson will also be assessed.
Ivan Rakitic, Ante Rabic, Sime Vrsaljko, Mario Mandzukic, Marcelo Brozovic and Vedran Corluka are all one booking away from a ban, and are therefore unlikely to play for Croatia.
- This will be the seventh different meeting between Iceland and Croatia but the first in a major tournament, with all of their previous encounters coming in World Cup qualifiers.
- Iceland and Croatia met in World Cup 2018 qualifying – both sides winning their home fixtures (Croatia 2-0 and Iceland 1-0).
- Iceland’s only previous victory against Croatia came in the qualifying stages for this tournament, drawing one and losing four otherwise.
- Croatia have won two World Cup games in a row for the first time since 1998 – they’ve never won three consecutively in the competition before.
- Croatia have kept a clean sheet in three of their last four World Cup games, as many as they had in their previous 12 in the competition.
- Croatia have already guaranteed their place in the World Cup knockout stages, just their second appearance. They’ve never finished top in the group stage, finishing in second place when qualifying in 1998.
- Iceland are without a win in their last eight games (D3 L5) – their longest winless run since September 2011 (9 games).
- Iceland are looking to become the first World Cup debutants to make the knockout stages of a World Cup tournament since Slovakia in 2010.
- Croatia’s Luka Modric has scored with both of his shots on target so far at the 2018 World Cup.
- Iceland midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson attempted just three shots in his last game against Nigeria, with his first two shots landing on target in the first six minutes, and his other shot missing the target from the penalty spot in the 83rd minute.