Iceland’s bid to become the smallest ever nation to reach a World Cup still hangs in the balance after a 0-0 draw in Reykjavik, but given the recent form shown by both themselves and opponents Croatia, we could yet be in for a shock.
In truth, many of the home fans will have come away from the game delighted to have avoided defeat, particularly after the 50th-minute dismissal of Olafur Skulason for the hosts.
But the result certainly highlighted one thing: Iceland will be no walkovers for favourites Croatia and while the Balkans nation boast the stars and the pedigree to progress, a one-off game in Zagreb may see them come undone.
The Scandinavians remain clear outsiders with odds of 9/1 available for those backing an Iceland victory and while Croatia are on at 1/3 for the win, recent results suggest that price is too short.
Heading into this fixture the Croats have gone five games without a victory, with their last triumph coming against Wales back in March.
A change of manager came at arguably the worst time with Igor Stimac departing after defeat to Scotland in their final group game and Niko Kovac stepping into the hot seat for the play-offs.
And if the former national team hero is to make a success of his stint he will need to get Croatia out of their recent slump in form at home, with Vatreni losing their last two competitive fixtures played at Stadion Maksimir.
Iceland, by contrast, head into the return fixture off the back of a six game unbeaten run, while their away form has been similarly impressive – the European minnows haven’t lost any of their last five games.
This included an impressive comeback against Switzerland, with the visitors 4-1 down before a second-half three-goal salvo rescued a draw.
Throw in a win away against Slovenia and a draw with another heavily-fancied host in Norway and there’s no reason to suggest that they can’t repeat the feat against Croatia.
With odds of 15/4 on a draw, backing both teams to score at 9/5 could prove a similarly tempting tip given that Iceland have averaged over two goals a game on the road over their last six matches.
Should the two combine on the day, then the 10/3 offered on Iceland achieving the seemingly impossible and qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil may just be the bet of the week.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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