MX23RW : Sunday, May 26 12:08:34| >> :600:28779897:28779897:
Jun 26, 2018 at 7pm UK at ​Rostov Arena
Attendance: 43,472
Sigurdsson (76' pen.)
FT(HT: 0-0)
Badelj (53'), Perisic (90')

Live Commentary: Iceland 1-2 Croatia - as it happened

Relive Sports Mole's coverage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia as Croatia beat Iceland 2-1 to claim top spot in Group D at the Rostov Arena.
Live Commentary: Iceland 1-2 Croatia - as it happened
© Reuters

Croatia took on Iceland in Group D of the 2018 World Cup in Russia at the Rostov Arena aiming for three points to seal top spot in the standings before heading into the knockouts.

After an industrious first half, Milan Badelj put the Croats into the lead after the interval, but they were pegged backed when Gylfi Sigurdsson rifled home a penalty for Iceland with just under 15 minutes to play.

It had looked like Zlatko Dalic's men were to be forced to settle for a draw, but Ivan Perisic found a winner in the dying embers to seal three straight group wins for the Vatreni.

Relive all of the live action with our minute-by-minute updates below.

Evening everyone and thanks for joining us as we bring you live coverage of Iceland's Group D clash with Croatia at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The tournament's debutants require at least a victory here and may even need other results to go their way should they want to move out of the group stages. Croatia, meanwhile, have already qualified and will be hoping to secure top spot with a victory at the Rostov Arena.

ICELAND STARTING XI: Halldorrson; Saevarsson, Ingason, R. Sigurdsson, Magnusson; Gunnarsson, Hallfredsson; J. Gudmundsson, Bjarnson, G. Sigurdsson; Finnbogason

CROATIA STARTING XI: L. Kalinic; Corluka, Jedvaj, Caleta-Car, Pivaric; Modric, Badelj; Pjaca, Perisic, Kovacic; Kramaric

ICELAND SUBSTITUTES: Fridjonsson, A. Gudmundsson, Sigurdarson, Schram, Runarsson, Arnason, Eyjolfsson, O. Skulason, Gislason, Trautason, Bodvarsson, A. Skulason

CROATIA SUBSTITUTES: Livakovic, Vrsaljko, Strinic, Lovren, Rakitic, Brozovic, Bradaric, Mandzukic, Rebic, Vida, Subasic

So the major news for Iceland is that both centre-back Ragnar Sigurdsson and winger Johann Gudmundsson start this evening despite recent fitness concerns. Iceland have opted for a 4-2-3-1 with Alfreo Finnbogason leading the line. The lone frontman is to be supported by an attacking three made up of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Birkir Bjarnason and Gudmundsson.

A little deeper in the centre of midfielder skipper Aron Gunnarsson will operate alongside fellow midfielder Emil Hallfredsson. At the back, Iceland have Birkir Mar Sevarsson and Hordur Magnusson covering the flanks, leaving Sigurdsson and Sverrir Ingi Ingason in the centre.

As expected Croatia coach, Zlatko Dalic has made a raft of changes with the likes of Ivan Rakitic, Ante Rabic, Sime Vrsaljko, Mario Mandzukic, Marcelo Brozovic all being given rests. Andrej Kramaric will feature up top in a 4-2-3-1 with further support provided by Mateo Kovacic, Ivan Perisic and young winger Marko Pjaca.

Luka Modric continues to feature, however, leaving the Real Madrid man to take up a deeper midfield role alongside Milan Badelj. In defence Vedran Corluka and Dulje Caleta-Car are the centre-backs, leaving Tin Jedvaj and Josip Pivaric to defend the wide areas. Lovre Kalinic takes the place of Danijel Subasic between the sticks.

Looking closer at tonight's action, Iceland have offered just about enough to ensure that they still remain in the hunt for progress, despite those chances still being quite slim this evening even if they do somehow managed to pick up three points here.

Having picked up a memorable point against Argentina in their opening game, the debutants at this year's tournament were found wanting in a 2-0 defeat to Nigeria last time out in the group.

Should Nigeria win elsewhere against Argentina tonight then Iceland would be eliminated outright. Should the African nation draw, Iceland would need a victory and would require at least two goals minimum against an already-qualified Croatia.

Argentina remain in the frame too and a win for the South Americans would make things rather squeaky when it comes down to goal difference should Iceland win out in Rostov.

Despite the hurdles that lie ahead tonight, Iceland are hoping to become the first World Cup debutants to make the knockout stage of a World Cup tournament since Slovakia in 2010.

Last week's loss to Nigeria proved Iceland's first ever defeat in the group stage of major tournament, having won one and drawn two when competing in the 2016 Euros in France.

The defeat against Nigeria came a little too easily for the African nation, especially when you consider Iceland's resolve against Argentina in the match before. Here's a highlights package of how Heimir Hallgrimsson and his men were beaten in that encounter:

What was most worrying in the defeat was the lack of major chances for Iceland. The country drew their first blank in seven games at either a World Cup or European Championship in the 2-0 loss.

The two nations know each other rather well as Iceland faced Croatia twice in the group stages when trying to qualify for the World Cup, while Croatia also beat Iceland over two legs in a playoff qualifier for the 2014 edition of the tournament in Brazil.

Iceland will be particularly wary of Mandzukic, who starts on the bench tonight, as it was his goal that proved decisive when Croatia knocked Iceland out and killed their dream of making it to Brazil four years ago.

During Iceland's qualification process this time around, the nation put together seven victories across 10 games in order to edge beyond Croatia into the only automatic qualification berth. The games against the Vatreni saw Iceland both win and lose against Croatia on their way to Russia.

Croatia have enjoyed a standout tournament so far and have already qualified for the knockouts with a game to spare. Only the threat of Nigeria stands between them clinching top spot too.

Dalic's side got underway with a laboured 2-0 victory over Nigeria in their opener without ever really moving beyond second gear. The Croats soon stepped things up, however, by turning in a standout display to tear Argentina to pieces in the second half when they met last week.

This game might prove a chance for Dalic to rest some key men, but there are records here to be broken too. Croatia have never finished top of a World Cup group and can also win three straight games at the tournament for the first time in their history.

It is worth noting too that whoever ends up winning this group will manage to evade France and instead face Denmark in the last-16 following results in Group C a little earlier today.

Some memorable recent history could also be lingering in Croatia's national consciousness. The last time the nation won their first two group games at the World Cup came at France '98, when the Vatreni eventually went on to reach the semi-final stage.

Dalic's men have certainly stepped things up organisationally. Croatia have managed to keep a clean sheet in three of their last four World Cup fixtures. That statistic is as many as they had done in their previous 12 in the competition.

Croatia could become the fifth team in the history of the World Cup to win all three of their group games without conceding a goal this evening. It is a feat only achieved by Brazil at Mexico 1986, hosts Italy in 1990, Argentina at France '98 and Uruguay here in Russia.

Aiming for three points tonight, Croatia have never actually won their third game at the World Cup. The nation were defeated 1-0 by Argentina in 1998 and Ecuador in 2002. In 2006 Croatia were held to a 2-2 draw by Australia and were then beaten 3-1 by Mexico eight years later in 2014.

Based on what Croatia produced against Argentina last time out, supporters will be confident of sealing a win here to secure top spot:

PREDICTION! Iceland will certainly give their all here tonight as they hope to find three points that would potentially push them towards qualifying. That said, Croatia will be wanting to top the group in order to take on Denmark instead of France in the next round. Dalic has made a number of big changes to rest players, but the Croats should still have enough quality on the pitch to get a win over the debutants. I'm backing Croatia to pinch this 2-1.

Going into the match, Iceland coach Hallgrimsson is hoping this side's previous outings will help bring confidence into his team this evening: "We were ahead of them in our [qualifying] group and we've already beaten them once in Iceland, so we at least have that confidence with us when we play them."

As for Dalic, the Croatian coach has insisted that he expects the same standards for his side regardless of the changes that he has made ahead of the match: "I don't care what other teams are saying. We mind our own business. It is not nice to say we have a reserve team. This is the Croatian national squad, all my players are going to play the same way they played against Nigeria and Argentina."

The players are now making their way out onto the pitch as we await the start of the game. It'll soon be time for the national and anthems and then we'll be moving at the Rostov Arena.

Here's a quick recap of the starting XIs as we wait for things to get moving.

ICELAND STARTING XI: Halldorrson; Saevarsson, Ingason, R. Sigurdsson, Magnusson; Gunnarsson, Hallfredsson; J. Gudmundsson, Bjarnson, G. Sigurdsson; Finnbogason

CROATIA STARTING XI: L. Kalinic; Corluka, Jedvaj, Caleta-Car, Pivaric; Modric, Badelj; Pjaca, Perisic, Kovacic; Kramaric

KICKOFF! Here we go, Iceland get us moving in Rostov as they aim to pull off the unthinkable and reach the knockout stages. The debutants need a victory here and hope that Nigeria lose to Argentina too.

It's a comforting start for a much-changed Croatia. Having won the ball back early on, the Croats move the ball easily around inside their own half as they size up Iceland in the opening moments.

Plenty of possession from Croatia here as they start to knock the ball about with confidence. Modric searches out the run of Kramaric in behind, but the pass is overhit and Halldorsson can gather with ease.

Iceland make a move down the right channel where Sigurdsson finds room to drive a cross into the box. Finnbogason looks to move towards the front post, although Caleta-Car is across quick to clear before the danger develops.

Pjaca drifts in off the right flank and the youngster drives towards the centre of the box. Iceland skipper Gunnarsson impresses with his industry to recover and is eventually lucky to escape a free kick when he seemingly brings the attacker down just outside of the area.

Iceland are clearly setup for the counter already and they seek to use it when Sigurdsson races away from inside his own half. The playmaker spots the run of Finnbogason down the right, but misses an even better one from Bjarnason developing down the left. A wasted chance, really, as Finnbogason is soon crowded out by Caleta-Car and Pivaric.

YELLOW CARD! Bjarnason has taken an awkward blow and finds himself on the deck with a bleeding nose. He's having some oxygen too and it all looks rather nasty on second inspection. Pjaca eventually goes into the book for an elbow. There's claret everywhere... A yellow seems pretty lenient to be honest.

Iceland are happy to drop deep at the moment and we're seeing very similar tactics to those deployed against Argentina in the first game. Just as a heads up, Messi has just put them in front against Nigeria too. As things stand, Croatia go through on top with the South Americans in second.

Kovacic has impressed in the centre early on and he is starting to turn some nice balls around the corner in a bid to break through these thick-set Icelandic lines.

Perisic gets his chance for a first attack of the evening, but he only has Kramaric to aim for inside the box. Ingason gets across to cover and concede a corner. Modric sends a teasing ball toward the back post where Perisic is denied by the leap of Bjarnason.

CLOSE! Gudmundsson steals possession right on the halfway line with Croatia caught high up the pitch. The midfielder looks to set Finnbogason away beyond the last man, although Caleta-Car makes a terrific interception to cut out the chance.

These sides are still looking to size each other up, but you get the sense that Iceland know exactly what their game plan is on the break. Croatia aren't forcing the issue too much and seem to be attempting to wear down their opponents with these stifling spells of possession.

Magnusson comes alive at left-back as he campers away into space down the left side. The youngster breaks into the box only to be greeted by a standout tackle from Corluka, who sends the ball away for a corner.

Magnusson is at it again in the box this time when the corner is delivered. The defender wins the first flick-on and sends the ball to the back post, where it just about evades the reach of Sigurdsson. Croatia got away with that...

When will Magnusson get the better of one of these? The defender is forward again and he leaps highest in the box to find a header at the back stick, but his effort is just inches off target and Croatia are spared again. That chance came out of nowhere too - a simple ball drifted into the area.

Croatia drop off for the first time and it allows Hallfredsson to run at two men and eventually win a free kick in a dangerous position between 25 and 30 yards out from goal.

SHOT! As you would expect, Sigurdsson steps up to bend his effort over the wall, but Kalinic is equal to it as the stopper shuffles across before diving comfortably to catch the ball with both hands.

Iceland have enjoyed the last five minutes as Croatia seem to be in too much of a comfort zone here. Saevarsson makes headway down the right only to see his cross turned away at the first opportunity by defender Caleta-Car.

The resulting ball into the middle sees Iceland win the first knockdown, leaving Croatian defenders to converge on the loose ball and prevent Gunnarsson from testing Kalinic.

SHOT! Perisic has his back to goal but receives a one-two from Modric. The winger takes a touch before spinning and striking towards goal, although his effort is tame as the Inter Milan man drags his shot wide of the target.

Kramaric receives the ball on the edge of the box and he should slip a quick pass into Pivaric, who moves into space down the left. Instead the striker opts to take a shot and Ingason makes a decent block. The frontman should've been less selfish and Croatia might have been in.

CLOSE! Finnbogason does brilliantly to win the ball off Badelj just outside of the Croatia box. The Iceland striker feeds a one-two into a teammate to receive the ball back in the centre. He shapes to shoot but his curling effort creeps just wide of the post with Kalinic seemingly beaten.

Just as Croatia seem to be developing a free-flowing move inside the Iceland box, Kramaric is penalised as the ball appears to pop up off the deck and hit his hand. Iceland get the free kick at a crucial moment with the striker looking to pull the trigger.

SAVE! Croatia fail to clear a corner and the ball falls kindly to an on-rushing Bjarnason, who smacks his effort straight down the middle only to be outdone by the legs of keeper Kalinic.

SAVE! Croatia are up against things now... Gunnarsson picks up the loose ball on the edge of the area and shapes a wonderful curling effort towards the far corner. It looks to be heading into the net, but Kalinic leaps up to keep it out.


It's Iceland who are asking all of the questions as we go into half time. The debutants probably deserve something given those two late efforts, but Kalinic was brilliantly to deny them on both occasions.

Croatia have perhaps been a little too comfortable and they do not appear in too much of a hurry tonight. Top spot is up for grabs and that should really be enough to motivate them in a bid to avoid Franc. Iceland have perhaps been the better team over 45 minutes.

Iceland will want more of the same in the second period, while Dalic might make a change or two as this game wears on. The current group toppers faded drastically in that first 45 minutes...

SECOND HALF! Croatia start the second half. Dalic's men really need to improve in the final third if they want to take the lead and make coming top a certainty tonight.

It's a fairly slow start to the second period as both teams settle back down into proceedings. Iceland will likely be waiting for the right moment to pounce.

Perisic makes just a hint of room out on the left and is able to get a cross into the middle, but Corluka holds off the challenge of Finnbogason to head clear.

OFF THE BAR! It's the first real moment of magic from Croatia as Badelj winds up from range. His effort takes a slight deflection and soon thunderous back off the crossbar with Halldorsson beaten all ends up.


It's perhaps not a deserved lead, but Croatia have one now. Pivaric is the architect as he moves into the cross to force a ball into the middle of the area. It's Badelj who screams for his teammates to back off as the midfielder arrives late, thundering a clever volley into the ground and past Halldorsson.

SAVE! Iceland almost respond instantly when the debutants overload the box and a bouncing ball comes up kindly for Ingason, who heads towards the roof of the net. Kalinic does the business, though, rising to turn the ball over the crossbar.

OFF THE BAR! What do Iceland have to do? It's Ingason causing issues again as he holds his marker off at a corner, only to see his eventual header beat the keeper but skim off the top of the bar.

YELLOW CARD! It's a first yellow of the tournament for Iceland, as Hallfredsson goes into the book for a late lunge on Pjaca.

It's been a strange second half. The goal hasn't really changed the game too much other than the position it now puts Croatia in. Iceland aren't panicking and are opting for the same cautious tactics deployed throughout the tournament. The debutants aren't 'going for it' just yet.

SUBSTITUTE: Croatia make a change as Modric is rested in place of Bradaric.

Sigurdsson finds some space on the right and he soon drives inside to fire a powerful effort towards goal, but it's always drifting wide and Kalinic looks untroubled.

Iceland are still waiting for a mistake and you would have to think that time is slowly running out for them playing this way. They're going to need to throw some men forward if they do want to save themselves tonight.

Croatia will be delighted with the scoreline considering the number of changes made. It will be an excellent night for Dalic and company should they take these three points while avoiding any injuries or potential suspensions. It hasn't been a classic but finishing top could be massive for Croatia.

Can Iceland force something in the last 20 minutes to make this contest interesting. Nigeria are now drawing with Argentina, meaning Croatia and Nigeria are going through.

CLOSE! Sigurdsson makes a clever run off the shoulder of the last man and he soon squares across the box and evades all of the Croatian defenders. Bjarnason arrives late at the back post but somehow drags his shot wide.



Game on! Sigurdsson moves away down the left and turns a quick ball into the middle, where it clatters into the trailing arm of substitute Dejan Lovren and the referee points straight to the spot. Sigurdsson steps up and rifles into the roof of the net...

That goal breathes new life into this game and the group with all sorts of permutations still available for all sides. A victory for Iceland could be enough, but it still might not be too. It all depends on how Argentina and Nigeria fare elsewhere.

Pivaric has impressed out on this left channel and he has been one of the better stand-ins this evening. The youngster makes good inroads but is thwarted by a standout tackle from Saevarsson to break up the move.

SUBSTITUTION: Ivan Rakitic enters the fray as Kovacic comes off for the final ten or so minutes in Rostov.

Iceland are now starting to shift more men forward and a long ball into the middle is punched away by Kalinic who races off his line.

Croatia have a free kick and try to seal all three points. Rakitic stands over it to bend an effort of the crossbar from range.

We are hearing late on here that Argentina have now taken a late lead over Nigeria courtesy of Marcos Rojo. Now it's Croatia and Argentina heading through!


Ah, poor Iceland! Chasing for victory they get caught in possession and Perisic is slipped into space on the edge of the area. The winger takes it on his left and bends an exquisite finish beyond Halldorsson.

We are going to have four minutes of additional time here.


Croatia top the group then with that late victory, but they also would have claimed the same outcome had they been held to a draw. The Croats will now face Denmark in the next round. Iceland have shown plenty of courage throughout the tournament but just haven't had the required quality over three games to get out of a fairly tough group. Elsewhere, Argentina have beaten Nigeria to take second spot and move into the knockouts. That's going to be all from me tonight, thanks for joining us!

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Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic reacts during the match against Argentina on June 21, 2018
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