Croatia and Iceland fought to a scoreless draw in Reykjavik last week, which sends the two-leg UEFA playoff matchup to Zagreb with plenty of questions left to answer. Once the dust settles on Tuesday, one side will have earned a trip to Brazil for the World Cup.
Even though the first leg ended in a draw, Croatia was the better team for most of the match. The Vatreni easily won the possession battle and created more chances. They will be looking for a similar performance in the rematch, only with one or two goals to show for it.
Iceland wasn't able to take advantage of its home leg. That said, if anybody would have offered the nation one road match with a chance to qualify for the World Cup when qualifying began, the Strakarnir Okkar likely would have taken that chance.
Let's check out all the key information for the decisive qualifier, followed by a breakdown of the top storyline and a match prediction.
Where: Stadion Maksimir in Zagreb, Croatia
When: Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 2:15 p.m. ET (7:15 p.m. GMT)
Watch: Sportsnet One and TV4 Sport (Live stream only in U.S.)
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Match Odds (To qualify via Bovada)
Top Storyline: Which country will punch its ticket to the World Cup?
Croatia holds the edge heading into the second leg. As the more talented side, it would have liked to score a win on the road to provide a little more margin for error, but needing to win one match at Maksimir Stadium shouldn't be too much to ask.
The biggest key is finding a way to get Mario Mandzukic and Eduardo more involved in the attacking third. While the Vatreni were able to dictate the pace of play in the first leg, they struggled to create scoring chances for the forward duo.
In the second leg, the midfield led by Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic must do a better job of pushing forward and linking up with the strikers to put more pressure on the Iceland back line. If they can, Croatia will be in great shape.
As for Iceland, the game plan should continue to revolve around defending and countering. It doesn't want to get caught up in a fast-paced clash with a more talented attacking side, especially with the match on the road.
It's up to Ragnar Sigurosson and Co. to remain stout at the back. If they can keep the Croatian attack to the outside like they did throughout the first leg, Iceland should be able to force the Vatreni into another low-scoring contest.
From there, the Strakarnir Okkar can hope to get a couple of chances on the counterattack, and it only takes one moment of brilliance to change the match completely.
Iceland deserves a lot of credit for getting this far. Progress is clearly being made, and players like Aron Gunnarsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson provide hope for the future. Getting past Croatia on the road is a tall task, however.
Croatia should be able to control the match from the outset once again. It's hard to imagine Iceland surviving the onslaught for two straight matches. Eventually, Mandzukic or Eduardo should break through to lead the favored side to a crucial win.
Croatia 2, Iceland 1
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!