Iceland plan to crank up the heat on Croatia

Iceland are planning to ratchet up the pressure on Croatia tonight and become the smallest nation ever to reach the World Cup finals.

With the tie delicately poised, fans and media in Croatia are demanding victory from their side in this winner-takes-all World Cup qualifying showdown in Zagreb.

Visiting captain Aron Gunnarsson thinks the opposition could crack under the weight of expectation if pressure is applied in the right places.

The Cardiff midfielder said: “There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re all switched on for this game. We know there’s a lot of pressure on Croatia.

“We’ve noticed in the media over here that the people are not happy with the team and that they were not satisfied with the result in the first leg.

“We have to put more pressure on them. We are not afraid of anything and we intend to make our dreams come true by getting to the World Cup.”

Croatia coach Niko Kovac, however, maintains his side will prove too strong.

Kovac says he saw enough in Iceland to convince him his players are still the stronger bet to snatch a place in Brazil. “We knew Iceland had a strong mentality and they proved as much,” said Kovac.

“Their goalkeeper also made two or three good saves. Sometimes it’s more difficult to play against 10 players than against 11 (Iceland had midfielder Olafur Skulason sent off).

“The impression remains that we are the better team and have a better overall repertoire. I am confident we will repeat our dominant display in Zagreb and ultimately get to Brazil.”

Iceland’s last visit to Zagreb saw them beaten 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier in March 2005 — a certain Niko Kovac scoring twice.

Iceland’s former Sweden boss Lars Lagerback could start veteran striker Eidur Gudjohnsen, with Kolbein Sigthorsson injured.

CROATIA (probable): Pletikosa, Srna, Simunic, Corluka, Pranjic, Perisic, Rakitic, Modric, Kovacic, Mandzukic, Olic.

ICELAND (probable): Halldorsson, Saevarsson, Arnason, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Ari Freyr, Gudmundsson, Gunnarsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Bjarnason, Finnbogason, Gudjohnsen.


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