Iceland know they need to beat Croatia to have any chance of qualifying for the last 16, whereas Zlatko Dalic’s side know one point will guarantee them top spot. Group D is set for a remarkable ending though, because Argentina face Nigeria and that result will have a serious impact on the game in Rostov with various permutations.
However, it’s clear for Iceland that they need to win and they will be boosted by the fact Croatia are set to heavily rotate their squad with key men like Ivan Rakitic, Mario Madzukic and Dejan Lovren among those to miss out, although Luka Modric will play. Croatia have been superb so far, collecting six points, scoring five goals and conceding none, whereas Iceland looked very poor in the second half against Nigeria last time out.
Here we will give you Iceland vs Croatia betting tips, look at where the game will be won, the key players and a Iceland vs Croatia prediction for the Group D encounter.
Our Iceland vs Croatia Prediction: Iceland 2-1 Croatia
Our Iceland vs Croatia prediction tips is for Iceland to spring something of a surprise by taking all three points against Croatia, although it may not be enough for them to qualify as an Argentina win would take second place to goal difference.
Everyone knows how Iceland play, they are well organised, relisient and direct in their approach and it has seen them shock several huge nations over the years. And, it will be the same against Croatia. They can score from various methods, have a quality player in Gylfi Sigurdsson but their limitations were highlighted against Nigeria too. Their defence is very slow and when chasing a game they looked very poor.
For Croatia, they will be confident that they may not even need a point to guarantee top spot, with Nigeria needing to beat Argentina by a fairly significant margin to force them into anything. Therefore, they will have all eyes on the last 16 and key men won’t be involved. Even those that are won’t be throwing themselves into challenges. They have deservedly put themselves in a position where tonight doesn’t matter and can take advantage of that.
Our recommended tip – Iceland to win
Whilst the heat in Rostov could be an issue for an Iceland side that don’t keep the ball well, they are more than good enough to beat a much-changed Croatia side.
The intensity won’t be there from Croatia and it’s a huge factor when playing Iceland who will fight for everything. It’s a battle to deal with the long throws, the free-kicks, the corners and we will question just how motivated Croatia will be. That’s not to say they are going to happily lose, that’s obviously not the case, but even just a slight drop-off at this level can make a big difference.
The clash in Rostov will be the fifth game in five years between these sides who may be getting sick of facing each other, but just their seventh overall, with Croatia winning four of the previous six. Although, they lost the last meeting 12 months ago.
As for their form, Iceland battled to a draw against Argentina where they soaked up a lot of pressure and created chances themselves, however a Lionel Messi penalty save salvaged them a point. Last time out against Argentina though they were unusually poor. They failed to create real chances and deservedly lost 2-0 with Sigurdsson ineffective and missing a late penalty that summed his afternoon up.
Meanwhile, Croatia have been one of the standout performers in Russia. They were better than Nigeria in a forgettable game but they made a real statement by beating Argentina 3-0 with Rakitic and Modric pulling the strings. Yet, with a lot of changes expected it will be different against their European counterparts.
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Players to watch – Gylfi Sigurdsson & Andrej Kramaric
The Everton is Iceland’s main man and will be key if they are to get the win they need. He is by far and away the best technical midfielder and will be key to them keeping the ball whilst he is also a major threat with his set-pieces that the team utilise regularly. If Iceland are to achieve what many thought was impossible and progress a big game from Sigurdsson is imperative.
The Hoffenheim striker will start in a much-changed Croatia side and will be key if they are to pick up a result. Kramaric is yet to score at this World Cup will want to take this opportunity against an Iceland defence that struggled with the pace and movement of the Nigeria forwards last time out, so he has the attributes to worry them.