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FIFA World Cup European Qualifying

Maksimir Stadium (ATT 25,000) 19th November 2013 - Kick off 19:15 Ref: B Kuipers

Croatia Croatia vs Iceland Iceland

Croatia (2) 2

M Mandzukic (27, S/O 38)
D Srna (47)

ft

Iceland (0) 0

World Cup play-off: Croatia v Iceland preview

Last Updated: 19/11/13 9:46am

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Niko Kovac: Thinks Croatia are the better team

Niko Kovac: Thinks Croatia are the better team

Niko Kovac is confident his Croatia side will prove too strong for Iceland in Tuesday's winner-takes-all World Cup qualifying showdown in Zagreb (kick-off 19.15)

Nordic minnows Iceland, who with a population of just over 300,000 would be the smallest nation ever to reach the finals should they win through, held Croatia to a goalless draw in Reykjavik on Friday night.

The visitors did dominate against an Iceland side who played most of second half without the dismissed Olafur Ingi Skulason, but Croatia would still leave the island frustrated and needing to win back on home soil.

Nevertheless, coach Kovac says he saw enough in Iceland to convince him his players are still the stronger bet to snatch a place in Brazil.

He told a press conference: "We knew that Iceland had a strong mentality and they proved as much.

"Their goalkeeper also made two or three good saves. Sometimes it's more difficult to play against 10 players than against 11.

"We said before the game that we were looking to score. We didn't score, but neither did they.

"The impression remains that we are the better team and have a better overall repertoire. They play very simple football with a lot of vertical switching and that's always risky.

"I am confident that we will repeat our dominant display in Zagreb and will ultimately get to Brazil."

Unfortunately for their hosts, Group E runners-up Iceland are similarly confident they can get a result in the Croatian capital - in the process making history by reaching their first major tournament.

And while home boss Kovac continues to present a brave face, visiting captain Aron Gunnarsson thinks the opposition could crack under the weight of expectation if pressure is applied in the right places.

The Cardiff midfielder told mbl.is: "There's no doubt in my mind that we're all switched on for this game. We know there's a lot of pressure on Croatia.

"We've noticed in the media over here that the people are not happy with the team and that they were not satisfied with the result in the first leg.

"We have to put more pressure on them.

"We are not afraid of anything and we intend to make our dreams come true by getting to the World Cup."

Iceland might, however, do well to avoid poring over history books before running out at the Stadion Maksimir.

Their last visit to Zagreb saw them beaten 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier in March 2005 - a certain Niko Kovac scoring twice.

In his new role as coach, the former Croatia midfielder is expected to make two changes for the return leg, replacing winger Ivo Ilicevic and striker Eduardo with Mateo Kovacic and Ivica Olic.

QPR loanee Niko Kranjcar is an alternative option in attack and would win his 82nd cap.

Midfielder Skulason is suspended for Iceland after Friday's dismissal while veteran striker Eidur Gudjohnsen - part of the set-up since 1996 - could enter the fray for the injured Kolbein Sigthorsson.

Former Sweden boss Lars Lagerback may even be tempted to give Birkir Mar Saevarsson a run-out at right-back in the crunch encounter.

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Matches

  • FIFA World Cup European Qualifying

    Tue 19th Nov - Play-Offs

Tables

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group A

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying
Pos Team P Pts
1 Belgium 10 26
2 Croatia 10 17
3 Serbia 10 14
4 Scotland 10 11
5 Wales 10 10
6 Macedonia 10 7

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group B

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying
Pos Team P Pts
1 Italy 10 22
2 Denmark 10 16
3 Czech Republic 10 15
4 Bulgaria 10 13
5 Armenia 10 13
6 Malta 10 3

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group C

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying
Pos Team P Pts
1 Germany 10 28
2 Sweden 10 20
3 Austria 10 17
4 Republic of Ireland 10 14
5 Kazakhstan 10 5
6 Faroe Islands 10 1

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group D

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying
Pos Team P Pts
1 Netherlands 10 28
2 Romania 10 19
3 Hungary 10 17
4 Turkey 10 16
5 Estonia 10 7
6 Andorra 10 0

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group E

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying
Pos Team P Pts
1 Switzerland 10 24
2 Iceland 10 17
3 Slovenia 10 15
4 Norway 10 12
5 Albania 10 11
6 Cyprus 10 5

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group F

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying
Pos Team P Pts
1 Russia 10 22
2 Portugal 10 21
3 Israel 10 14
4 Azerbaijan 10 9
5 Northern Ireland 10 7
6 Luxembourg 10 6

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group G

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying
Pos Team P Pts
1 Bosnia and Herzegovina 10 25
2 Greece 10 25
3 Slovakia 10 13
4 Lithuania 10 11
5 Latvia 10 8
6 Liechtenstein 10 2

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group H

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying
Pos Team P Pts
1 England 10 22
2 Ukraine 10 21
3 Montenegro 10 15
4 Poland 10 13
5 Moldova 10 11
6 San Marino 10 0

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group I

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying
Pos Team P Pts
1 Spain 8 20
2 France 8 17
3 Finland 8 9
4 Georgia 8 5
5 Belarus 8 4