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Iceland vs. Croatia: Changes Both Teams Should Make for Playoff Second Leg

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND - NOVEMBER 15:  Eiour Smari Guojohnson of Iceland battles with Ivica Olic of Croatia  during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Play-off First Leg match between Iceland and Croatia at the Laugardalsvollur stadium on November 15, 2013 in Reykjavik, Iceland.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2013

Iceland and Croatia were the only World Cup UEFA playoff participants not to produce a goal between them on Friday evening.

The Rio hopefuls saw out a goalless draw in Reykjavik as the hosts survived a second half played mostly with just 10 men following the sending off of Olafur Ingi Skulason.

Seeing out a scrappy affair in the first leg, both sides will be hoping things improve on their way to Zagreb for Tuesday's second leg, where we'll find out which of these sides makes their way to the finals in Brazil.

With not too many positives to work from, Friday gave both teams a raft of items to contemplate before taking centre stage once again.


Iceland: Trust In One Up Top

SigthorssonMichael Steele/Getty Images

It's a terrible blow for Iceland that striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, who's been one of the club's most reliable attacking assets in qualification thus far, should have got injured on Friday night.

The forward was stretchered off on the stroke of half-time and replaced by Eidur Gudjohnsen, as Philip O'Connor confirmed on Twitter:

Sigthorsson will be a big miss for the Icelandic visitors on Tuesday, should he indeed fail to recover from the ankle injury in time. That being the case, Lars Lagerback shouldn't try to replace his man in another 4-4-2 line-up should Sigthorsson indeed be unfit.

Instead, it should be accepted that his side are bound to see less of the ball in Zagreb and a more packed midfield will be needed to break up Croatia's hold over the ball.

In that eventuality, Alfred Finnbogason would be the man to lead Iceland's line independently, although it will require some mighty support in order to make a go of things in attack.


Croatia: Expanding Horizons

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND - NOVEMBER 15:  Ragnar Sigurosson of Iceland battles with Eduardo Da Silva of Croatia during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Play-off First Leg match between Iceland and Croatia at the Laugardalsvollur stadium on November 15, 2013 in
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Only in the second period of Friday's encounter did Croatia begin to play a more expansive game and really develop a foothold in possession.

Up until then, the visitors seemed content to soak up any and all pressure but became the ones piling it on when they chose to, giving the likes of Mario Mandzukic and Ivica Olic more to work from.

It's vital that Tuesday's hosts pick up where they left off next week, taking to the pitch with the same tempo that let to Skulason being sent off last time out.

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