Eurovision and World Cup glory in the sights of eternal optimists Iceland

Gylfi Sigurdsson_cropped

Shaun Botterill Getty Images

Croatia has topped a world finals group for the first time in their history as a result of their consecutive win in their three games.

As it stands, they are going to the Round of 16 with confirmed Group D winners Croatia; Nigeria and Iceland are out.

It means they have already qualified top of the group but it is a different story for Iceland, who need a win as a minimum before different permutations come into play.

Even when Milan Badelj put Croatia ahead, Iceland responded emphatically, refusing to acknowledge the looming reality of their tournament mortality.

Iceland would surge, inspired by a noisy contingent of its countrymen, then Croatia would take the ball back and restore some calm.

Croatia players celebrate after their teammate Ivan Perisic scored his side's second goal during the group D match between Iceland and Croatia, at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, Tuesday, June 26, 2018.

"I think it's a little bit of a disadvantage for us", he said.

Therefore, it is hard to see them really taking the game to an accomplished Croatian outfit in this must-win game.

On 73 minutes Bjarnason fluffed a close-range opportunity, but Iceland s lifeline arrived a minute later when Dejan Lovren handled a cross by Sigurdsson in the penalty area.

Strakarnir okkar were not to be put off by the goal, though, and responded nearly 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. But they have players [coming in who are now] playing at the higher level, for Inter Milan and Real Madrid [a reference to Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic].

Hallgrimsson praised the close bond with their fans, famed for their so-called "Viking thunder-clap", and said during the past six years the team had found its identity.

Lovren's clumsy handball did enable Sigurdsson to make amends for his failure from the spot last time out, though it was Perisic who had the final say.

"The players showed what they're all about, we had chance to progress till the dying minutes".

"We did not look the best on the pitch today, but it s important to win on such occasions", said Perisic.

Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson, meanwhile, claimed the team is not using the possibility of eliminating Lionel Messi and Argentina as a motivating factor.

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