FIFA WORLD CUP 2018 – Iceland vs Croatia PREVIEW
Do or die game for Iceland meanwhile Croatia are already safely through and have pretty much clinched the first place unless something crazy happens. These nations have met each other in the qualifiers where Iceland edged Croatia to top place sending Croatia to play in the playoffs. Will Iceland get one over Croatia again or will Croatia respond to Iceland by sending them straight out of the competition?
So far the first two games have been up and down for Iceland. They started by picking up a historical result as a country in a 1-1 draw against Argentina, but they failed to pick anything up against Nigeria losing 2-0 in a game where they really had a chance to solidify their group position, but failed to do so and have put themselves in an extremely tough situation. Now regardless of what happens in the last fixture, Iceland are already proud of what they’ve achieved, their first world cup, first goal, first point a draw against the legendary Argentina, denying Messi a goal. Yes they may not get out of the group stages but all of these achievements for a country like Iceland are amazing. They have had great support all around, an incredible 99.6% of the population have watched Iceland play at the world cup. They’ve shown good team spirit in this tournament and although they may not have been as good as in the euros, but you can’t fault their efforts in this tournament so far. Only bit of criticism in Iceland’s play that we’ve seen would have to be the second half against Nigeria. They dominated the 1st half in that game and looked sure the more likely team to win, but Nigeria really turned it on against them with their quickness and simply destroyed Iceland in the second half. A missed penalty by Sigurdsson summed it up for them.
Coming up against Croatia, we can still expect Iceland to go out there try and accomplish history. They won’t quit until it really is over. Iceland will continue to be a threat from the set pieces, although Croatia are a lot more organised at the back and have solid defenders to deal with those so it may not work as fluently for Iceland from the set pieces. Iceland simply have to hope everything goes right in this fixture. Not only they have to beat Croatia, but they need Argentina to win too but it can’t be by a bigger margin than Icelands required win. Iceland are edging Argentina on goal difference by 1 which could come through massively for them. If Nigeria and Argentina draw then Iceland would have to win by 3 goals. If Nigeria win, then no matter what Iceland do they’re out. Iceland simply have to take care of their own business, they need to continue to show good discipline and good team unity which is what took them here. Their toughest task will be snuffing out the Croatian midfield. They’ve beaten Croatia in the qualifiers so the task isn’t impossible. Just win this game and hope everything goes right in the other group game. Iceland might get lucky with Croatia rotating players since they’re through which would increase their chances for sure. They have to believe that it’s not over till it’s over.
Well, well, well how impressive have Croatia been? They have secured qualification to the next round from the group of death after two games. Croatia have beaten Nigeria 2-0, and then they simply smashed Argentina 3-0. That win against Argentina was one of the best performances by a single team in the tournament, they shut down Messi and then destroyed them. Modric and Rakitic have lived up to all the expectations so far proving why they’re world class midfielders. Croatia’s midfield play has been exceptional probably the best in the tournament, but not only that their defence has looked nearly as good. Lovren and Vida has been a very solid defensive partnership and just overall Croatia have been fantastic. Croatia have pretty much clinched first place too, unless they lose to Iceland and Nigeria beat Argentina and these games have a 6 goal swing. Let’s be honest it’s not going to happen. Croatia have put themselves in a situation where they can rotate and give other players a chance in this last group game.
Coming up against Iceland, Croatia can feel much easier, but we shouldn’t expect them to just mess around and give Iceland the win they need. Yeah, we may see rotation, players like Pjaca, Kovacic, Kramaric, Corluka may get a run out in the team who are all talented players and can easily slot into the starting position. Rotation can only bring more confidence around the team with others getting involved. We can still expect to see the main men play, Modric, Rakitic will probably still start to continue their red hot form. We can expect to see Croatia have a mix of first and second team players which would still be a very strong team. If they want to beat Iceland, their midfielders have to work their magic to overcome the Icelandic tough defence and at the back, Croatia must watch out from long balls and set piece plays. It’s a tough task but Croatia are the favourites here and with the way they’re playing you wouldn’t bet against them.
Expect a close game here. Croatia have been great, but I do see them rotating the squad which will weaken it a little bit and that should enable to give Iceland a glimmer of hope. Iceland will probably continue to play from the back and try to hit Croatia on counter attacks. Set pieces will obviously be the biggest threat by Iceland but we expect Croatia to deal with it. In the end looking at it, Croatia are a more talented squad and are playing some of the best football of the tournament. Iceland will leave their all on the pitch and should give Croatia the toughest game of the tournament, but with the form that Croatia are in, we’re not going to bet against them. Expect a 1-0 win for Croatia.
1 Croatia 6 pts +5 GD
2 Nigeria 3 pts 0 GD
3 Iceland 1 pt -2 GD
4 Argentina 1 pt -3 GD
ODDS – Decimal (WilliamHill)
Iceland Win – 3.50
Draw – 3.30
Croatia Win – 2.10
KICK OFF – 26th June 2018 – 7pm UK Time