Unfortunately, the Icelandic World Cup dream came to an end with a 2-1 loss to Croatia. Despite a very positive first half, Iceland couldn’t keep up their momentum. Croatia, however, now top the group with three wins from three games. Iceland ultimately finish in last place, with only one point.
Iceland- Sigurdsson 76′(pen)
Halldorsson, Saevarsson, Ingason, R Sigurdsson (Sigurdason 70′), Magnusson, Gudmundsson, Gunnarsson, Hallfredsson, Bjarnason (Traustason 89′), Finnbogason (Gudmundson 84′).
Kalinic, Jedvaj, Corluka, Caleta-Car, Pivaric, Pjaca (Lovren 69′), Modric (Bradaric 65′), Badelj, Perisic, Kovacic (Rakitic 81′), Kramaric.
This will certainly be a massive first half for Iceland. A positive start to this game may be all the difference in boosting their qualification hopes. If they fail to make a good impact, however, they may fail to make the cut ahead of Argentina or Nigeria.
Clearly Croatia were not trying to exert themselves in this game. Manager Dalic Zlatco made nine changes from the side which defeated Argentina only a few nights ago. Iceland were fully on top in the first half, enjoying several good chances however just managing to miss the mark each time.
Croatia unsurprisingly looked out of touch, which is understandable given the number of first team players absent from the side. No doubt that the already qualified side have bigger fish to fry as they prepare for their Round of 16 fixture. This being said, the side were content to allow Iceland to dominate this half.
At the half time whistle, however, neither side were able to break the deadlock. Iceland certainly looked the more threatening side. If they can find a goal from somewhere, the landscape of this group may take a very interesting turn. Only time will tell. Half time, Iceland 0-0 Croatia.
Unfortunately for the Scandinavians, however, this positive first half would not continue into the opening minutes of the second. Less than ten minutes into the new half, Milan Badelj scored from a half-volley to give the Croatians the lead and possibly destroy any hope of Icelandic qualification.
Iceland continued to play well throughout the second half, however constantly found themselves frustrated in front of goal. Their pressing tactics found reward with only 15 minutes to go in the half, however. A Bjarnason cross was handled in the box by blunder-prone defender Dejan Lovren, which gave the referee no choice but to point to the spot. After missing a penalty in the previous match, Sigurdsson made up for his error by calmly rifling the ball into the top corner. All square in Rostov, and perhaps a lifeline for Iceland.
In cruel fashion, however, this dream would shatter at the hands of Ivan Perisic in the dying minutes of the game. Iceland were giving everything at the front, but as a result were left vulnerable. Perisic took full advantage of this through a run down the left flank, before slotting the ball behind Halldorsson(formerly the ‘Great Wall of Halldorsson’, but I’ll just let that nickname die).
Unfortunately, that’s all she wrote for the Icelandic Dream. The nation which captured the hearts of fans the world over failed to qualify for the next round. Their single point from three games left them sitting, sadly, in last place in the group.
The Lazy Fan View
Despite their last place finish, Iceland can safely say that they caused a party in Russia. Their entertaining first game led them to become consensus fan favourites, despite their later performances not living up to the hype. Iceland can Viking Clap all the way home, safe in the knowledge that they have done their country proud.
Croatia have been simply dominant throughout the first three games of the tournament, boasting a 100% win record in the process. Players such as Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic have proven to be instrumental in this. Croatia have now exceeded the title of ‘Dark Horse’, and may become a formidable force in the next round of the World Cup.
Bring on the next round.