ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (Reuters) – Croatia know Iceland far too well to be over concerned about calculations regarding the outcome of World Cup Group D as they aim to secure top spot with at least a draw at the Rostov Arena on Tuesday.
The Balkan side shone in victories over Nigeria and Argentina to qualify for the last 16 and they will finish first if they avoid losing to Iceland.
Croatia lost 1-0 to Iceland in a World Cup qualifier and had to go through the playoffs to reach the finals so they will be taking nothing for granted despite speculation that coach Zlatko Dalic could field a second-string team.
“I don’t care what other teams are saying. We mind our own business. What other are commenting, that’s their business,” Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic told a news conference on Monday.
“If Croatia had been in another situation nobody would have minded so we’re going to do just that: mind our own business,” he added, refusing to give a hint on his starting 11 — notably whether key playmaker Luka Modric would be rested.
“It is not nice to say we have a reserve team. This is the Croatian national squad, all my players are going to play the same way they played against Nigeria and Argentina.”
Croatia are hoping to emulate the previous golden generation of players who reached the World Cup semi-finals in France 20 years ago.
“We want to beat Iceland to stay top of our group. We have our own style of play and we are going to stick to it while being watchful on their long balls and set pieces,” Dalic said.
“We know everything about Iceland and they know everything about us.”
Pride will also play a part.
“That loss (in the qualifiers in June 2017) meant that we had to go through the playoffs and even if it is a new situation, it’s a nice way to settle the score,” said Dalic.
Midfielder Milan Badelj agreed.
“They ruined our holidays because of that game in June and we were frustrated and dejected. We want to make amends for that loss,” he said.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond)