After a lackluster, scoreless effort in the first leg, Croatia advanced to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with a 2-0 victory over Iceland in the second leg of a UEFA World Cup playoff at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb on Tuesday.
The trip to Brazil means Croatia are back in the World Cup after a disappointing exclusion in 2010. It was a rather tumultuous run in 2013 qualifying as Croatia failed to defeat Scotland in two matches, which resulted in the resignation of manager Igor Stimac and the hiring of Niko Kovac.
Croatia dominated the first half, as Mario Mandzukic scored in the 27th minute to put Croatia ahead. But 11 minutes later, he received a red card for a studs-up tackle.
Ivan Rakitic’s cross from the left side helped lead to Croatia’s first goal, as it found its way to Ivan Perisic, who failed to get a clean kick near the left post. The deflection landed near Mandzukic, and the Bayern Munich forward had no problems finding the back of the net with no Iceland player to contest his shot.
Croatia continued to press in the second half despite being a man down. After just two minutes, Croatia found their comfort goal.
Mateo Kovacic put on a fine dribbling effort to lead the Croatian attack before passing to the right side to find Darijo Srna. The Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder was able to score with a right-footed shot from distance that goalkeeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson probably should have been able to stop.
Halldorsson had previously done a brilliant job blocking Srna’s free kick in the first half.
Despite a man advantage, Iceland failed to muster much of an attack, though they received much better chances in the second half. While ball possession was evenly split, Croatia took 19 shots with eight on goal, compared to seven shots with one on target from Iceland.
An IB Times staff reporter contributed to this report.