Preview: Iceland v Croatia

Iceland meet Group D leaders Croatia on Tuesday in a World Cup encounter knowing they have to win to stand any chance of advancing to the knockout stages of the competition.

2018 World Cup
26 June 2018
Group D
Kick-off: 20:00 (GMT+2)
Venue: Rostov Arena

Referee: A. Lahoz
Assistants: P. Devis, R. Perez

Previous encounter:

Iceland 1-0 Croatia 0 (World Cup qualifier) 11/06/2017

Iceland goalscorer: H. Magnusson

Players to watch:

Hannes Halldorsson was outstanding in the 1-1 draw with Argentina in the Icelanders opening match, and has proven himself to be a performer for the big stage. With Croatia coming into the contest having scored five goals in two matches, the 34-year-old is likely to be tested by a talented Vatreni attack. How he stands up to the onslaught could be key in the outcome to the match.

Luka Modric has shone for his country in the wins over Nigeria and Argentina with his fine passing ability, as well as two goals to his name as well. The Real Madrid star is a superb playmaker and is set to be a key performer should the Croatians want to go all the way at the World Cup. The 32-year-old will likely run the show in the heart of midfield in southern Russia.

Team form and manager quotes:

Iceland have picked up just one point from their opening two Group D matches and need a victory to stand any hope of advancing to the last-16.

The Nordic Island nation need Nigeria to lose Argentina and then have to collect the three points against the Croatians to finish in one of the qualifying spots.

As such, manager Heimir Hallgrimsson is remaining optimistic about his side’s chances. He told reporters: “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.”

Meanwhile, Croatia have already secured passage into the next round which means coach Zlatko Dalic will have the luxury of resting key players, some of whom are carrying yellow cards.

Nonetheless, Dalic wants his side to keep up their winning record in the competition in order to hold on to first position. He said: “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. We know everything about Iceland and they know everything about us.”

Team news:

Central defender Ragnar Sigurdsson is a doubt for Iceland after being taken off against Nigeria with a head injury, while Johann Berg Gudmundsson is also set to be assessed.

Ivan Rakitic, Ante Rabic, Sime Vrsaljko, Mario Mandzukic, Marcelo Brozovic and Vedran Corluka are all just one yellow card away from a suspension, and appear likely to be rested for this clash.