Iceland’s World Cup dream was ended by Ivan Perisic’s late winner in a 2-1 defeat to Croatia, who themselves topped Group D.
Iceland came close to leading before the break but Birkir Bjarnason had two shots from corners blocked, and Lovre Kalinic pulled off a fine flying save to keep out Aron Gunnarsson.
Shortly after half-time though, Milan Badelj put Croatia in front with a textbook half-volley from Perisic’s cross.
Iceland continued to press and were rewarded with 15 minutes to go when Bjarnason’s cross was handled by Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren and Gylfi Sigurdsson, who missed from the spot in his previous game, stepped up to smash a penalty into the top corner.
Croatia: Kalinic (7), Jedvaj (6), Corluka (6), Caleta-Car (7), Pivaric (7), Pjaca (6), Modric (7), Badelj (7), Perisic (6), Kovacic (6), Kramaric (5).
Subs: Bradaric (6), Lovren (4), Rakitic (na).
Iceland: Halldorsson (6), Saevarsson (7), Ingason (8), R Sigurdsson (6), Magnusson (7), Gudmundsson (7), Gunnarsson (7), Hallfredsson (8), Bjarnason (6), Finnbogason (7).
Subs: Sigurdarson (6), Gudmundsson (na), Traustason (na).
Man of the match: Emil Hallfredsson
Needing only one more goal to progress after Argentina regained the lead against Nigeria, Iceland pressed for a winner but were caught out in injury time when Perisic brought the ball down on the left of the area and fired beyond Hannes Halldorsson to give them a perfect record in Group D.
Iceland were far the better side before the break, and not for the first time found set pieces their likeliest source of joy.
Hordur Magnusson, fresh from a move to CSKA Moscow from Bristol City, nodded a Sigurdsson delivery beyond the post from a corner, before doing likewise from a tougher angle from the kind of long throw that gave England nightmares two years ago.
Sigurdsson also forced Kalinic into a save from a free-kick, but it was Cardiff midfielder Gunnarsson whose curling drive from the edge of the area had him at full stretch just before the break.
Iceland made three changes from their defeat to Nigeria, with Johann Gudmundsson the most notable change back in midfield, replacing Rurik Gislason. Kari Arnason also missed out for Sverrir Ingason, and Emil Hallfredsson takes Jon Bodvarsson.
The only two players in the Croatia line-up to keep their places were The only two players to keep their places from the 3-0 win over Argentina were Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic.
Croatia improved from a display which had failed to register a convincing effort in the first half, with Badelj striking the bar before going one better a minute later, half-volleying into the ground and beyond Halldorsson from eight yards.
But Iceland responded with intensity and intent, with Sverrir Ingason’s effort touched over, and moments later he too smacked the crossbar.
And they found a way through when Lovren moved his arm towards Bjarnason’s cross, and Sigurdsson showed his bravery by planting his penalty in the same direction as the one he missed against Nigeria – albeit inside the posts this time.
Iceland threw men forward in search of a winner which looked increasingly like it would send them through.
But they were left in tears at the final whistle when, in the first minute of added time, Perisic – who had been so wasteful during the game – fired a powerful shot goalwards which Halldorsson could only palm into the top corner.
- Croatia have won three consecutive World Cup matches for the first time.
- Iceland have now lost five of their seven matches against Croatia (W1 D1).
- Ivan Perisic has scored three World Cup goals for Croatia – only Davor Suker (6) has scored more.
- Gylfi Sigurdsson’s penalty for Iceland was the 17th scored at the 2018 World Cup, equalling the most penalties scored in a single World Cup tournament (also 17 in 1998).
- Croatia scored with both of their shots on target in this match.
- Iceland’s Gylfi Sigurdsson became the second player to have scored and missed a penalty at the 2018 World Cup, after Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
- Milan Badelj scored only his second goal for Croatia, with this his first since scoring against Malta in September 2011 during qualifying for Euro 2012.
- Croatia midfielder Mateo Kovacic completed 78 of his 79 passes attempted in this game (98.7%); the best percentage of any player to start the match.
- 10 of Croatia’s last 11 goals at the World Cup have been scored in the second half.
- Croatia made nine changes, the most by a team in a World Cup match since England made nine for their match against Costa Rica in 2014.
Man of the match – Emil Hallfredsson
Iceland might not be known for their passing but he showed his range of short and long deliveries all evening, enjoying the best pass completion rate of anyone in a white shirt (80.6%) – and the highest number of passes too (36).
He did the dirty work too, winning half of his duels (7/14) and both of his tackles as well as recovering the ball more than anyone else on the pitch.