Croatia top group after last minute winner against Iceland
- Author: Stacy Allen Jun 27, 2018,
Jun 27, 2018, 2:41
"The fact that we've brought on nine new players and won is another sign of our strength and depth, and we have to be proud of that", said Badelj, who was man of the match.
Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson was philosophical. While Croatia have received a lot of attention for their offensive talent, they have not received credit for how well they have played on their own side of the field.
"We've played Croatia four times in four years, we've often said we're like a married couple - we're trying to get divorced, but we always meet up again", the Iceland coach said at a recent media conference. We left everything behind on the pitch, there's no percentage left in the batteries in the dying minutes.
As expected, Croatia controlled midfield and Iceland were perfectly happy with the scenario, looking to hit their opponents on the break.
Croatia's possession was sterile but, with a draw enough to top the group, it had little incentive, especially as Iceland was pretty toothless until news of Lionel Messi's opening goal reached the stadium.
It's around this time, on the eve of the knockout stages, that theories are being formulated for who will impress moving on at the World Cup, and though England have garnered attention, it's Croatia who are the real lurkers in Russian Federation.
On the stroke of halftime, Aron Gunnarsson fired an angled shot that was bound for the top corner until Lovre Kalinic tipped it away.
Croatia had their first clear chance when Badelj's missile crashed onto the bar six minutes into the second half. The midfielder was more accurate two minutes later as he thundered a volley into the back of the net to open the scoring.
Iceland had to claim their first ever World Cup victory to have a chance of advancing and, urged on by fans chanting their famous Viking thunderclap, nearly equalised immediately.
Iceland equalised with a penalty shot taken by Gylfi Sigurdsson in the 76th minute after substitute Dejan Lovren carelessly handled the ball.