World Cup: Iceland in do-or-die situation vs Croatia (Preview)

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Rostov-On-Don (Russia), June 25 (IANS) Struggling to make their mark, Iceland will aim for nothing less than a win when they take on already-qualified Croatia in their last Group D clash at the Rostov Arena here on Tuesday.

Croatia are already through to the Round of 16 with victories over Argentina and Nigeria while Iceland played a draw with Argentina before losing to Nigeria.

Iceland’s fate does not only lie in their own hands as a win on Tuesday may not be enough for them but will also hope that Nigeria lose to Argentina.

Croatia tops the group with six points while the Heimir Hallgrimsson-coached Iceland have just a single point in their kitty and lie at the third spot.

After already achieving their first objective, Croatia would likely bench some of their players against Iceland.

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On Tuesday, Croatia could also become the fourth team in the history of the World Cup to win all three of their group games without conceding a goal.

Six Croatian players — Ivan Rakitic, Ante Rebic, Sime Vrsaljko, Mario Mandzukic, Marcelo Brozovic and Vedran Corluka — are one booking away from being suspended for the last 16 and some of them are likely to be rested against Iceland.

Hinting at resting these players in Tuesday’s clash, Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic said: “I’d like to top the group. But, we have to take care because we have some players on yellow cards, so I will change the line-up.”

“I will not start those who are on yellow cards because it’s too much of a risk, there are 22 players who can play,” he added.

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Iceland, on the other hand, are known for bouncing back from defeats such as the one they suffered against Nigeria.

The islanders employed a 4-5-1 formation against Argentina before switching to a 4-4-2 formation against the African side.

Emil Hallfredsson, who missed the match against Nigeria, is expected to return to the starting XI along with Johann Gudmundsson, who is almost fit again.

Commenting on their clash, Hallgrimsson said the game will be a tough test for both the sides.

“We know the scenario when we play Croatia – it’s (always) going to be really tough games,” Hallgrimsson told mediapersons.

“Normally it’s steel to steel, not a lot of chances, always a lot of yellow cards. In three games out of four, we’ve had a red card,” he added.

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Iceland will mostly rely on Gylfi Sigurdsson, their highest-profile player, who missed a late penalty against Nigeria and a goal could have pulled his team back into the game.

–IANS

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