Iceland to face Croatia in World Cup playoff

Eidur Gudjohnsen, Stoke City FCIf Iceland are to make it to their first ever major football competition they will have to overcome Croatia over two legs after the draw in Geneva paired the North Atlantic island with the Balkans nation.

The first leg will take place in Reykjavik on Friday, 15 November followed by the second leg in Zagreb the following Tuesday.

Lars Lagerbäck’s men, who were among the four unseeded teams, could have been paired with Croatia, Ukraine, Greece or Portugal, with the latter being the team they would have most likely wanted to avoid.

Croatia may in fact have been the best possible draw for Iceland, given the relative turmoil they currently find themselves in. After a string of poor results, including two defeats at the hands of Scotland, head coach Igor Stimac was relieved of his duties amid mounting pressure from a restless public.

Former international Niko Kovac has stepped into the role, and with players such as Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandzukic, this is still a mammoth task for Iceland.

Nevertheless, Iceland, who are experiencing something of a golden generation with a number of players representing clubs at the top level in the English, Italian and Dutch leagues, will view this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make it to the biggest stage of all.

Should Eiður Smári Guðjohnsen and co overcome the odds once more, they would be the smallest ever nation to appear at a World Cup, with a population of just 320,000.