26 June 2019 – Exactly one year ago today, Croatia’s dream run at the 2018 World Cup continued when they made it three wins from three with a win over Iceland in Rostov.
Croatia made it through the group stages unbeaten after a 2-1 win against Iceland on 26 June and set up a Round of 16 clash with Denmark after topping Group D.
Wins against Nigeria and Argentina meant Croatia were already assured a last 16 spot so coach Zlatko Dalić made 9 changes with only captain Luka Modrić and Ivan Perišić retained from the side which beat Argentina 3-0 a few days earlier.
After a quiet opening with little action, Iceland started to gain control and apply pressure. In the 29th minute Iceland went close when Magnusson’s header went wide, then two minutes later keeper Lovre Kalinić saved Sigurdsson’s free kick.
Bjarnason’s effort was then blocked in the box in the 34th minute before Kalinic was again called upon to make a fine save from Gunnarsson. Croatia, with most players looking out of match form, were lucky to go into the break level at 0-0.
Croatia looked more energetic at the start of the second spell and nearly took the lead in the match in the 51st minute but Milan Badelj’s rocket from outside the box crashed against the crossbar.
Badelj didn’t have to wait long though as two minutes later he found himself unmarked in the box to hammer in a cross from Pivarić to give Croatia a 1-0 lead.
Kalinić kept Croatia ahead shortly after with a fine save from a header before Ingason watched his header rattle the crossbar from the resulting corner. Dalić took off captain Modrić and Marko Pjaca limped off as Iceland starting to press for an equaliser.
After a couple of half chances, Iceland drew level in the 74th minute when they were awarded a penalty after Dejan Lovren was adjudged to have handled in the box. Sigurdsson made no mistake from the spot.
Both sides pushed for a winner with Dalić introducing Rakitić for Kovačić. Rakitić came close with a free-kick and Kramarić shot just wide from inside the box before Perišić scored the winner in the 90th minute with a left-foot shot past the Iceland keeper.
“It was a difficult match and very humid. We have 9 points which is important for us. It was a deserved win in the end but it was not easy. Denmark awaits but we have shown our quality and we can do a lot,” said Kovačić.
CROATIA – ICELAND 2:1
World Cup, Group D
GOALS: Badelj 53′, Sigurdsson 71′ (P) Perišić 90′
CROATIA: L. Kalinić; Pivarić, Ćaleta-Car, Ćorluka, Jedvaj; Badelj, Modrić (Bradarić 64′); Perišić, Kovačić (Rakitić), Pjaca (Lovren 70′); Kramarić