Hope for Iceland as Croatia rest players

ROSTOV • Nothing less than a win will do for Iceland against Croatia if they are to emulate their Euro 2016 success by making it to the knockout stages at their first World Cup. And they could receive a boost after Croatia media reported that coach Zlatko Dalic will make 10 changes to his starting XI.

Croatia website Gol.hr revealed that midfielder Ivan Perisic will be the only player to retain his place from the side that stunned Argentina 3-0.

Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic, Ante Rebic and Sime Vrsaljko are all on yellow cards and would be suspended if they picked up another caution. Midfielder Marcelo Brozovic has already accumulated two yellow cards and is suspended.

The Croats are assured a place in the last 16 and will top the group with a win or a draw against Iceland at the Rostov Arena.

Iceland, having drawn with Argentina in their opener and lost 2-0 to Nigeria, have to beat Croatia.

The Euro 2016 quarter-finalists also have to hope Nigeria fail to beat Argentina, and also earn themselves a better goal difference than Nigeria or Argentina.

  • GROUP D PERMUTATIONS

  • THE GAMES

    Nigeria v Argentina

    Singtel TV Ch141 & StarHub Ch222, tomorrow, 2am

    Iceland v Croatia

    Ch142 & Ch223, tomorrow, 2am

    CROATIA

    Qualified for last 16. Need a point to top group.

    NIGERIA

    Will advance with a win over Argentina. A draw would mean Iceland can qualify if they beat Croatia and have a better goal difference or more goals scored.

    ICELAND

    Need to beat Croatia and hope Nigeria lose to Argentina. If Nigeria draw, Iceland need a better goal difference.

    ARGENTINA

    Can qualify if they defeat Nigeria and Iceland fail to beat Croatia. If Iceland win, it will go down to goal difference again.

A Nigeria win would send the Icelanders and Argentinians both home.

Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson is expecting a tough game, but the challenge will be to get more out of a goal-shy attack in a team that have drawn two and lost four of their last six games, while creative spark Gylfi Sigurdsson struggled with a knee injury.

The Everton midfielder missed a penalty against Nigeria, and his team will need to do more to share the attacking burden, in particular by being more effective at set pieces.

Iceland's older hands such as centre-back Kari Arnason, 35, will be keen to avenge the play-off defeat that saw the islanders miss out on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and they will have to call on their famous never-say-die spirit if they hope to advance.

"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," Hallgrimsson said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2018, with the headline 'Hope for Iceland as Croatia rest players'. Print Edition | Subscribe