Croatia Faces Iceland and Empty Stands Tonight at Maksimir

Daniela Rogulj

The Croatian national team tonight welcomes Iceland to empty stands at Maksimir in Zagreb. A key qualifying match for the World Cup, this clash leads off with the strongest teams of the group.

The fourth round match tonight could decide which team in the group will advance to the World Cup, reports Croatia and Iceland are both in the lead with seven points and the meeting at the deserted Maksimir stadium will be the first opportunity for one of these two teams to get ahead. A defeat will bring drama, anxiety and panic to Croatia’s side, while a victory is valuable and will ensure security…for now.


Luka Modrić, who just returned to the pitch after a 5-week recovery from his knee injury, is still questionable, and Čačić has not yet revealed whether Modrić will start. We imagine he’ll play, but not for the full 90 minutes.


On the bench in this case is Mateo Kovačić, who we also hear is suffering a slight injury. It seems Croatia will again have to play in a standard 4-2-3-1 system with Mandžukić as the only attacker. Modrić, for as long as he can last, and Badelj will play in front of the defense, and in front of them will play Rakitić. Pjaca, the first choice on the right wing, is still injured, with Brozović taking his place. Left side of the midfield is reserved, of course, for Perišić. Goalkeeping in this match will be done by Subašić, with the right-back position and filled by Vrsaljko and defenders Ćorluka and Vida in the middle. But one question mark in the defense still remains: will Čačić choose Leovac or Pivarić in the defense for left-back?


Čačić yesterday announced that Croatia is only looking to win…


“I never look for a point, I am always looking for a win. We always look for the win, but we are playing against a team that has continuity, and they were very good for the Euro, and also have seven points in qualifying. The team has high morale, and are good at breaking…but if the ball is going to be fast, then I expect a good result, but I would be very pleased with a win.”


Iceland will play without Finnbogason and Sightorsson, and say they are ready for Luka Modrić.


“We know that Luka Modrić is back, and we expect his composition and so we will be prepared. We all know what kind of player he is. As for my team’s concerns, we are missing players, but we have a solution for the position. Bod would have been a big reach, but Iceland always goes for the win. Finbogasson’s brilliance entered us into the qualifications, but we hope that someone else will score at Maksimir,” said the Iceland coach.


The coach added that Croatia was a turning point for Icelanders and recalls the decisive battle for the World Cup in Brazil.


“We were dropped from qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil, but this match was a turning point for Icelandic football. We’ve had a lot of time to progress, so now we want confirmation.”


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