Iceland vs. Croatia: Date, Time, Live Stream and Preview

Mike Moraitis@@michaelmoraitisAnalyst INovember 15, 2013

OSAKA, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 23:  (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Iceland team head coach Lars Lagerback speaks during a press conference ahead of the Kirin Challenge Cup international friendly match against Japan at Nagai Stadium on February 23, 2012 in Osaka, Japan.  (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)
Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

World Cup qualifying will continue for both Croatia and Iceland as they will square off on Friday, Nov. 15, with Iceland as the hosts.

After a strong start, Croatia is winless in its last three World Cup qualifying matches. It tied against Serbia and lost to Belgium and Scotland. Croatia's offense has been dreadful in those contests with just two goals in the three results. New head man Niko Kovac will be looking to change all of that.

On the other hand, Iceland has enjoyed more success lately, winning two games and tying twice in its last four World Cup qualifying matchups. Aside from its previous match with Norway that ended in a draw, Iceland has scored two or more goals in three of four contests and even notched four against Switzerland.

In their previous two meetings, Croatia has dominated with two victories to the tune of seven goals scored and only one allowed to Iceland. If it hopes to continue this improbable run to the World Cup, Iceland must emerge victorious over Croatia and overcome the demons of the past.

Let's take a closer look at this match, which is the first leg of the play-off.


When: Friday, Nov. 15 at 2 p.m. ET

Where: Laugardalsvollur National Stadium, Reykjavik, Iceland

Live Stream: ESPN3


Important Storyline: Iceland's Improbable Run

Aside from the importance of this game to each squad, Iceland has a bit more on the line considering its unexpected bid for a place in the 2014 World Cup. Should it succeed in qualifying, Iceland would become the smallest country in the history of the tournament to make it.

Iceland's head coach Lars Lagerback has seen the World Cup three times in his career and is looking to be the man responsible for taking Iceland to its first.


Players to Watch

Gylfi Sigurdsson, Iceland

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03:  Gylfi Sigurdsson of Tottenham Hotspur during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on November 3, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)
Tony Marshall/Getty Images

This won't be Gylfi Sigurdsson's first rodeo in World Cup qualifying with Iceland after a brilliant showing in 2012-13. He scored five goals and notched two assists last year for his country.

In 2013-14, he has enjoyed some success with Tottenham Hotspur, scoring three goals in nine games. For Iceland, Sigurdsson has found the back of the net once and added two helpers in four games.

Clearly, he has shown he can net goals when at his best with great long-range shooting skills, but the talented midfielder can also set his teammates up for easy scores.

This roster has done well, but with a lot of unknowns and not a heaping amount of talent overall, Sigurdsson commands respect from opposing defenses. That extra attention will allow him to unlock a defense and make scoring chances easier.

Kolbeinn Sigthorsson may be this team's best goalscorer, but Sigurdsson is one player who can make his life easier on the field.


Mario Mandzukic, Croatia

GLASGOW,  SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 15:  Mario Mandzukic of Croatia in action during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying Group A match between Scotland and Croatia at Hampden Park on October 15, 2013.  (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

In four qualifying matches this year, Mandzukic has just one goal. Last year, he netted two goals and added an assist in six qualifying matches. He is primed to make an impact in the game against Iceland.

The Bayern Munich star is considered a key component to one of the finest clubs on the planet, and he even scored a goal in last season's Champions League final.

That kind of clutch play is exactly what Croatia will need to fend off a surging squad like Iceland, which brings a ton of momentum as the small country on the cusp of history. If anyone will be unafraid of the bright lights of such a pressure-packed match, it's Mandzukic.

Scoring will be important when you consider Iceland's recent success on the field. Iceland has netted two or more goals in three of its last four matches, so Mandzukic must help his side keep up with the pace.

In addition, Croatia's issues with scoring goals of late are a cause for concern and will only be washed away if one of its best players answers the bell on Friday.

Prediction: Iceland 2, Croatia 2