By 90Min
June 26, 2018

Iceland have exited the 2018 World Cup after losing 2-1 to Group D winners Croatia at the Rostov Arena on Tuesday night in their final match of the opening rounds.

The teams had met seven times before, but Tuesday's clash marked their very first in a major tournament, with all previous matches played in qualifiers. 


The Croats started this match having already qualified after winning their first two matches, but Iceland would have to pull off the seemingly impossible to give themselves a chance. They should have drawn encouragement from the memory of their victory over Zlatko Dalic's side in the qualifying rounds, however.

There was very little to report from the opening minutes as the sides were seemingly content to feel each other out.

Things opened up approaching the 20th minute, though; but hardly, as the Croats comfortably worked the ball around while their opposition simply waited to pounce on something.

The Icelandic side went on the offensive a bit after that, perhaps inspired by news of Argentina scoring against Nigeria, and created several chances before the halftime whistle blew.

In the 30th minute, Gylfi Sigurdsson's free-kick from 25 yards out looked to worry Croatia stopper Lovre Kalinic, but he was able to make the save. Three minutes later, Iceland had two shots blocked by bodies in the opposition box.

They hardly let up for the remainder of the period, keeping the group leaders pegged back in their own half. And their best chance came in the 40th minute when Alfred Finnbogason nicked a ball off Milan Badelj to work a one-two pass before getting himself a shot from the top of the box that skimmed just wide.

Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

There would be a final chance before the referee called things off for the halftime break, with Aron Gunnarsson curling what would have been a worldie towards goal from just inside the box in the second minute of stoppage time. Kalinic sprung to his right to pull off an amazing save that kept a worried Croatia in it.

Iceland looked just as determined to pull ahead in the second half, but the better chance fell to Dalic's Vatreni as Badelj rattled the woodwork with a shot from distance on minute 52. The Fiorentina captain found the back of the net moments later, making a late run to smash the ball into the ground and zing it past the Iceland keeper for the lead.

Strakarnir okkar were not to be put off by the goal, though, and responded almost immediately, forcing yet another save from Kalinic with a header in the box and then hitting the crossbar with another header from the resulting corner.

They broke away in the 72nd minute to create what looked to be their best opportunity of the half but Birkir Bjarnason completely mis-kicked after running in unmarked onto a cross with just the keeper to beat at the near post.

Sigurdsson got Iceland the equaliser about three minutes later, stepping up to bury a penalty after Dejan Lovren's handling of the ball in the Croatia box. But with Nigeria having equalised themselves, Heimir Hallgrímsson's side were left needing more goals to get them up the table as well as cover the goal differential.


The Argentines changed the shape of the table yet again with a late go-ahead strike to leave Iceland within a goal of qualification. But the Croats would be the ones to score next as Ivan Perisic broke Icelandic hearts with a rifled shot from the left side of the goal in the 90th minute, after picking possession off Iceland's defence close to the 18-yard box.

Four minutes of extra time were of little help to Hallgrimsson and his men. And the final whistle would confirm their fears as Croatia marched on to the round of 16 as Argentina scraped through.

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