Croatia beat Iceland to top Group D

Tanya Simon
June 30, 2018

Argentina took second place and will face France after beating Nigeria 2-1, a result that sent the third-placed African team packing.

Croatia's possession lacked a cutting edge but, with a draw enough to top the group, they had little incentive, especially as Iceland looked toothless until news of Lionel Messi's opening goal reached them.

Whilst Iceland's abrasive, defensive-minded approach to the game should not be underestimated, Croatia will be brimming with the belief that they can secure a clean sweep as they target the knock out stages of the tournament. Kovacic leaves the field with Croatia bringing Rakitic on.

Hallgrimsson is expecting a tough game, but the challenge will be to get more out of a goal-shy attack in a team that has drawn two and lost four of its last six games, while creative spark Gylfi Sigurdsson struggled with a knee injury.

The second one of the day to Iceland.

The chance was to prove a signifier for an improved Croatia who came back just a few minutes later to finally break the deadlock. Sigurdsonn stepped up and made no mistake from the spot to level matters.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic did not disguise his focus turning to the knock-out phase prematurely. "But it doesn't matter, if we get out the group, who gets left behind". Wonderful technique on the volley.

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Iceland were then awarded a penalty after 72 minutes following a handball in the box.

They received an ally in their quest in the form of Russian fans, whose affinity for FC Rostov automatically translated into loyalty to Iceland, given Ingason, Ragnar Sigurdsson and Bjorn Bergmann Sigurdarson all ply their trade for the local team.

An Iceland win is 16/5 to happen while the price for a draw is a lucrative 14/5. "We had the luxury of giving every player in our squad the chance to play which they deserved". Croatia keeper Lovre Kalinic manage to take the ball.

Iceland might not be known for their passing but he showed his range of short and long deliveries all evening, enjoying the best pass completion rate of anyone in a white shirt (80.6%) - and the highest number of passes too (36).

Ivan Perisic scored late to help Croatia finish the group stage on nine points and end Iceland's hopes of advancing in their first World Cup.

Iceland have made three changes, with Jon Bordvarsson being left on the bench to leave Alfred Finnbogason as a lone striker in front of a five-man midfield.

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