Croatia vs Iceland

19 November 2013 21:15 SAST 2013-11-19 09:15:00 PM SAST
Ref: B. Kuipers
Stadion Maksimir
Attendance: 22 612
Croatia
HRV
  • M. Mandžukić 27'
  • D. Srna 47'
2-0
(Aggr 2-0)
Iceland
ISL
Croatia WINS ON AGGREGATE SCORE
HRV
ISL
0 15 30 45 60 75 90 15 30
PENALTY SHOOTOUT
HRV
-
ISL

live commentary

  •  
    Hello and welcome to live coverage of the World Cup qualifying play-off between Croatia and Iceland. After a goalless draw in Reykjavik on Friday both sides still harbour realistic hopes of reaching the tournament proper in Brazil. The home side certainly start proceedings as heavy favourites, but Lars Lagerback's Iceland have been defying the critics on a regular basis of late. I'm Tom Maston and I'll be guiding you through all the action as it happens.
  •  
    As most already know, Iceland will become the smallest nation to reach the World Cup group stage should they be victorious this evening, though they will really have to up their game if they are to continue their fairytale. Lagerback is without the services of full-back Olafur Skulason after his red card in the first leg while Ajax forward Kolbeinn Sigthorsson is also missing after picking up an injury on Friday. If they are to win then they will certainly have done it the hard way.
  •  
    Croatia interim coach Niko Kovac will have been happy with his side's all-round display in the first leg, though their lack of potency in attack will have to change if they are to continue their run of reaching every World Cup since their debut in 1998. Mario Mandzukic was especially poor in Reykjavik, but the Bayern Munich man will be key this evening for the home side.
  •  
    With Sigthorsson missing for Iceland this evening, former Chelsea and Barcelona forward Eidur Gudjohnsen could return to the starting line-up as he looks to reach a major international tournament for the first time in his illustrious career. A goal from the veteran would be most Iceland supporter's perfect way to reach a maiden World Cup.
  •  
    Before we go any further, the two line-ups are in ahead of the match...
  •  
    Croatia: Pletikosa, Srna, Corluka, Simunic, Pranjic, Kovacic, Modric, Rakitic, Perisic, Olic, Mandzukic.
  •  
    Iceland: Halldorsson, Saevarsson, Arnason, R. Sigurdsson, Skulason, Gudmundsson, Gunnarsson, G. Sigurdsson, Bjarnason, Gudjohnsen, Finnbogason.
  •  
    So as expected Gudjohnsen comes into the Iceland side to replace Sighthorsson. The visitors' only other change sees Saevarsson replace the suspended Skulason. For Croatia, Olic comes into the side in place of Eduardo as Kovac looks to give Mandzukic more support after he was somewhat isolated last time out.
  •  
    There are just over 10 minutes until kick-off in Zagreb as the UEFA World Cup qualifiers head towards a close this evening. After tonight we will know the 13 European sides who will travel to Brazil to look and bring back the trophy. Neither Croatia or Iceland will be many people's favourites to triumph in South America, but at the end of the day you have to be in it to win it.
  •  
    The preparations are over and the two teams are making their way out onto the field. Remember a goalless draw would mean this match will go to extra-time and penalties. If either side finds the net, though, then we'll be finished in 90 minutes. Away goals also count, so an Iceland goal could prove to be a huge factor.
  •  
    The two national anthems are in full swing and there are plenty of Iceland supporters who have made the trip to Eastern Europe. This is arguably the biggest night in their footballing history, and plenty have made sure that they don't miss out on the possible celebrations.
  •  
    The pre-match handshakes are over and we are almost ready for kick-off in Zagreb. Where's your money? Can Iceland continue their amazing journey? The next 90 minutes or so will tell us.
  • 1'
     
    Croatia kick-off and we are underway...
  • 1'
     
    Good start from the hosts and they have the first opportunity of the evening as Modric finds Perisic in the box, and he in turn feeds Olic, but the striker's effort is too high. Certainly some intent from Croatia.
  • 3'
     
    Croatia have certainly come out of the traps well and they again press as Srna whips in a delightful early ball that Arnason is forced to head behind. The resulting corner is eventually cleared after some head tennis inside the box.
  • 5'
     
    Iceland have sturggled to string any passes together thus far, with this the opening stages certainly echoing much of Friday night's match when Croatia had the lion's share of possession.
  • 7'
     
    First booking of the evening goes to Olic as he needlessly dives in on Gunnarsson and brings down the Iceland skipper. No complaints from the hosts.
  • 9'
     
    A first real moment for Modric to pick a pass as the Real Madrid man finds space around 30 yards from goal. His ball is a poor one though as he looks to put Mandzukic in behind. Same old story so far for Kovac's side.
  • 11'
     
    Olic is already treading a tightrope as he again commits a foul after going in late on Saevarsson. The forward needs to be careful.
  • 12'
     
    Iceland have the ball in the net but their celebrations are rightly cut short. Gylfi Sigurdsson finds space and shoots for goal, but his effort hits the offside Finnbogasson, and though the striker eventually finishes, the flag is up.
  • 14'
     
    Certainly a tight opening to the match, with neither side looking to give anything away at this stage. Croatia's best chance of breaking the deadlock seems to be getting the ball wide, though with a player such as Modric they may be discouraged from doing that.
  • 16'
     
    A first look at Saevarsson in an attacking sense as the right-back gets forward well for the visitors. With Gudjohnsen in the box he looks to get in an early cross but his ball is poor and Croatia clear. Iceland are certainly growing into this one.
  • 18'
     
    Croatia looking to up the ante here, and after one Rakitic corner is cleared, he has another chance to deliver as Modric's cross is deflected just wide by Arnason. Iceland clear again, however.
  • 20'
     
    Big appeals for a penalty from the Croatia players as a ball whipped into the box hits Skulason and the home players ask for handball. Replays suggest it may have hit the defender's arm by the referee wasn't moved.
  • 22'
     
    GREAT SAVE! Halldorsson had a superb game in the first leg, and he looks in the same mood tonight as he does brilliantly to get across his goal and tip Srna's free-kick behind. The resulting corner also sees a chance as Mandzukic heads over the top. Croatia getting closer.
  • 24'
     
    Iceland's forward players, and Gudjohnsen especially, haven't been able to get into this match yet with the visitors camped inside their own half at present. Croatia look a class above despite failing to find the net.
  • 26'
     
    Yet more excellent defending from Arnason as he clears Pranjic's cross from the left. The Rotherham United centre-back has been superb thus far.
  • 27'
     
    GOAL!!! First blood to the hosts and they have fully deserved it. Mandzukic is the man to get his name on the scoresheet some excellent work from Rakitic on the left. He twists and turns before crossing, and after Perisic's flick, the Bayern Munich forward was alive to bury it at the back post.
  • 27'
     
    I. Perišić provided the assist.
  • 29'
     
    Depsite only being a goal away from booking their place in Brazil, Iceland have a mountain to climb. They cannot keep the ball and have shown very little in attack. Something has to change if they are to qualify now.
  • 30'
     
    Another chance for Croatia as Srna again delivers from the right and Olic gets up to win a header at the back post. The Wolfsburg man can't control his effort though and it flies over.
  • 32'
     
    The pressure just isn't relenting on Iceland as Modric this time tries his luck. The midfielder's effort from distance is a weak one but Halldorsson needs two bites of the cherry to hold onto it.
  • 34'
     
    Croatia continue to keep possession well in midfield as they look to keep control of this one. Mandzukic's goal means the urgency to score has gone somewhat, but they still look dangerous in the final third.
  • 36'
     
    GOOD SAVE! Halldorsson is being kept very busy as he does well to get down to his left to deny Mandzukic. The goalscorer gets a header in on goal after a deep Rakitic corner is volleyed back into the middle by Srna.
  • 38'
     
    RED CARD!!! Oh my word, Mandzukic has been sent off! The Bayern Munich man is protesting his innocence but he will have to go.
  • 39'
     
    The Dutch referee had no hesitation in sending the Bayern Munich man off, and replays show he caught Gudmundsson late with his studs showing. Though there was little force in his actions, the right decision may well have been made. Hope for Iceland.
  • 41'
     
    Certainly more attacking intent already from Iceland since the red card. Gudmundsson has been one of the brighter sparks in the visitors' play, and he at last brings a save out of Pletikosa, though his weak effort is straight at the goalkeeper.
  • 43'
     
    Iceland are their own worst enemy at the moment as first Gudjohnsen and then Bjarnason give the ball away cheaply when an attack looks promising. The forward players really need to make the ball stick more often.
  • 44'
     
    A first yellow card for Iceland as Ragnar Sigurdsson goes into the book after dragging down Kovacic.
  • 45'
     
    Halldorsson has to be aware again as Srna whips in the resulting free-kick and Corluka manages to get something on it at the back post. The goalkeeper is down quickly though and holds on.
  • 45'
    (+1)
     
    Just one minute of stoppage time and Iceland again threaten as Gylfi Sigurdsson tries his luck from distance. His shot is too high however and Pletikosa watches it over the bar.
  •  
    And that is the last action of the first half as Croatia head into the dressing room with a 1-0 lead. They know, though, that they will have to see out the remainder of the match with ten men after goalscorer Mandzukic was given his marching orders.
  •  
    Iceland have certainly looked more confident since earning a numerical advantage, but they have much improving to do in the final third if they are going to find the away goal they need to stand any chance of qualifying. I'll be back in ten minutes to see if they can find an equaliser.
  •  
    The two teams are making their way back onto the field in Zagreb as the final 45 minutes of this tie move ever closer. Croatia are currently in the box seat, but with just ten men the job is far from over.
  • 46'
     
    No changes for either side and Iceland get us back underway...
  • 47'
     
    GOAL!!! Are Croatia heading to Brazil? They certainly have one foot in the group stage now after superb strike from Srna. After Kovacic dribbles the ball across the field, he finds his captain on the edge of the area, and his first-time effort is expertly placed in the corner. Huge moment in this tie.
  • 47'
     
    Assist by M. Kovačić.
  • 49'
     
    Iceland seem a little shell-shocked by that strike and even against ten men their task is an unenviable one.. They need two goals to reach their first major tournament.
  • 51'
     
    The first yellow card of the second period is shown to Simunic as he cynically trips Gudjohnsen inside the Iceland half.
  • 53'
     
    Croatia's class has certainly been the difference over both legs of this tie, and even with ten men they look the better side. Iceland just haven't got going and if anything seem overawed by the situation.
  • 55'
     
    Half-chance for Ireland as Skulason swings one into the middle, but Gudjohnsen and Finnbogasson get in each other's way and Pletikosa can clear.
  • 57'
     
    Better play from Iceland leads to Gudmundsson swinging over a cross from the right, but Bjarnason misjudges it at the back post and Croatia can again bring it clear. Iceland just haven't looked like troubling Pletikosa in either leg.
  • 58'
     
    Halldorsson has to be aware as Pranjic puts in another early cross from the left which the goalkeeper has to punch clear.
  • 59'
     
    Kovacic has certainly been the best player in the second half, and he almost gets himself on the scoresheet as he goes on another mazy run through the Iceland defence and Halldorsson just gets enough on the resulting shot to see it wide.
  • 60'
     
    OFF THE BAR! Croatia are going for the jugular now. Rakitic swings in a corner that Olic meets with an overhead kick which crashes against the bar. The home side protest that the ball crossed the line, but replays confirm Halldorsson snaffled it up before it bounced in.
  • 62'
     
    Iceland are preparing a substitution as they look to get back into this one. In truth it may take more than a change in personnel to pull this match back. Croatia are comfortable at present.
  • 63'
     
    Here comes that change as the thoroughly disappointing Gudjohnsen is replaced by Gislason.
  • 64'
     
    GOOD SAVE! Halldorsson again to the rescue as Modric and Perisic break for Croatia, with the former feeding the latter before his low effort is kept out by the goalkeeper's feet.
  • 65'
     
    E. Guðjohnsen is replaced with R. Gíslason.
  • 66'
     
    Iceland have a quarter of this match to find the two goals they need to qualify for the World Cup. At the moment it seems highly unlikely their fairytale will be continuing in Brazil.
  • 68'
     
    The visitors have certainly seen more of the ball since Mandzukic's sending off but they have done very little with it. How they could have done with Sigthorsson and his ability to hold the ball up.
  • 70'
     
    Another half-chance for Iceland as the some pinball in the box leads to Gylfi Sigurdsson lining up a shot on the edge of the box. But just as he looks to pull the trigger Simunic sticks out a foot and Modric can bring it away.
  • 72'
     
    A second change for Iceland as skipper Gunnarsson makes way as Hallfredsson comes on.
  • 73'
     
    A. Gunnarsson is done for the day. E. Hallfreðsson is his replacement.
  • 74'
     
    A substitution now for Croatia as Kovacic, who created the second goal with a superb run through the heart of Iceland, is replaced by Rebic.
  • 75'
     
    M. Kovačić is done for the day. A. Rebić is his replacement.
  • 76'
     
    Croatia could have been out of sight if not for Halldorsson. The goalkeeper is on his toes again to come and meet Pranjic and save with his feet after some neat interplay from the hosts.
  • 78'
     
    Iceland are certainly finding themselves in much better positions in the second half but Corluka and Simunic have been equal to everything that has been thrown at them. Not long for the hosts to hold out now.
  • 79'
     
    Yet more action down by the bench as Olic takes his leave to be replaced by Jelavic.
  • 81'
     
    Into the final ten minutes and Croatia are in complete control of this one. Iceland are all but done and will have to wait for an appearance at a major tournament.
  • 81'
     
    N. Jelavić enters the game and replaces I. Olić.
  • 83'
     
    Gislason has certainly added something to Iceland's attacking play, but they are still struggling to keep hold of the ball for more than a few seconds. The attacking play has been the difference this evening.
  • 85'
     
    After Modric is fouled by Hallfredsson the referee books the substitute, showing that the card comes as a result of accumulation.
  • 86'
     
    A rare effort on goal for the visitors as Gylfi Sigurdsson picks up the ball on the edge of the box, turns inside onto his left foot but shoots just over the top. A goal there may have set up a grandstand finish.
  • 88'
     
    Iceland are looking to get bodies into the box but it all seems too little too late now for the Scandanavian side.
  • 89'
     
    Final change for the hosts as Modric is replaced by Lovren.
  • 90'
     
    We are heading into three minutes of stoppage time. Surely not enough time for Iceland now...
  • 90'
     
    L. Modrić is replaced with D. Lovren.
  • 90'
    (+2)
     
    Almost the icing on the cake as Rebic turns well in the box but his placed effort is too close to Halldorsson, who himself makes yet another save.
  •  
    The referee blows the full-time whistle and Croatia have qualified for the 2014 World Cup. Over the two legs they certainly deserved it, though they are going to have to improve if they are to make a real impact in Brazil.
  •  
    Despite Croatia going down to ten men Iceland couldn't force a way through, and in truth they will be disappointed that they couldn't give a better account of themselves in these play-off matches. The Croatian celebrations are now in full swing, but for now I've been Tom Maston and thanks for joining me.