Iceland vs Croatia Preview: European sides meet in final group game with Group D progress up for grabs

A preview of Iceland's meeting with Croatia in the final group game of Group D.

Iceland vs Croatia Preview: European sides meet in final group game with Group D progress up for grabs
Photo: Getty Images -  Sergei Bobylev - TASS

 In the final matchday of Group D fixtures, Iceland take on Croatia in Rostov-on-Don, with the Nordic minnows given a slight hope of progression to the World Cup knock-out stages.

Group D is poised for an interesting final set of games with every side given a chance of progressing but Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria will all be needing help from elsewhere if they want to progress.

Croatia, fresh off the back of their dominating win over Argentina, will top Group D with a point and their progress is assured regardless of the final set of results but hold the key for the rest.

If Heimir Hallgrímsson’s side fail to beat Vatreni, then they will be eliminated if Jorge Sampaoli’s wretched Argentina beat Nigeria.

However, if La Albiceleste and the Super Eagles draw in their game in Saint Petersburg, Iceland will progress to the last-16 if they beat Croatia by a two-goal margin and also score at least one more than any that Nigeria manage.

The Icelandic side shouldn’t expect to get any favours from Zlatko Dalić, however, as the Croatia boss looks set to ring the changes and rest key players like Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic.

Of those changes, Dalić’s side have six players – Sime Vrsaljko, Verdan Corluka, Ante Rebic, Marcelo Brozovic, Ivan Rakitic and Mandzukic - who are one booking away from suspension.

They are all almost certainly set to watch this final group game from the sidelines. 

 

Well acquainted

Prior to this meeting, Iceland have faced off Croatia six times before with the Nordic side only being able to find victory once.

The two sides know each other very well and being pitted against each other in qualifying for this World Cup.

Croatia were able to pick three points up against Iceland in Zagreb thanks to a Marcelo Brozovic brace – as the midfielder scored a goal in both halves.

However, when they made the trip to Reykjavík, a last-minute Hordur Magnússon goal helped Hallgrímsson’s side to a victory over Croatia in a tightly contested qualification game.

Iceland were defensively sound in qualification, only conceding seven goals – however, Croatia were responsible for two of those so they may just have the key to finding a way past the stout defence.

 

Team News

As already mentioned, Croatia are expected to ring the changes, with boss Dalić rumoured to be considering making 10 changes to the side that dominated Argentina.

Winger Ivan Perisic is rumoured to be the only player retaining his place from Thursday’s victory whilst former Leicester City striker Andrej Kramaric is expected to earn a recall in the place of Mandzukic.

For Iceland, they will sweat on the fitness of two key players.

Defender Ragnar Sigurdsson is a doubt for the game after being forced off in the defeat to Nigeria with an injury.

Burnley’s Johann Gudmundsson missed that defeat to the Super Eagles after picking up a muscle strain in the opening game draw with Argentina.

The versatile midfielder will be assessed ahead of kick-off.  

 

Match Day Stats

  1. Defeat to Nigeria was Iceland's first ever defeat in the group stage of a major tournament.

  2. Croatia have won two consecutive World Cup matches for the first time since 1998.

  3. Iceland are without a win in their last eight games - their longest winless run since 2011.