World Cup play-off: Croatia v Iceland preview
Niko Kovac is confident his Croatia side will prove too strong for Iceland in Tuesday's World Cup qualifying showdown.
Last Updated: 19/11/13 9:46am
Niko Kovac is confident his Croatia side will prove too strong for Iceland in Tuesday's winner-takes-all World Cup qualifying showdown in Zagreb (kick-off 19.15)
Nordic minnows Iceland, who with a population of just over 300,000 would be the smallest nation ever to reach the finals should they win through, held Croatia to a goalless draw in Reykjavik on Friday night.
The visitors did dominate against an Iceland side who played most of second half without the dismissed Olafur Ingi Skulason, but Croatia would still leave the island frustrated and needing to win back on home soil.
Nevertheless, coach Kovac says he saw enough in Iceland to convince him his players are still the stronger bet to snatch a place in Brazil.
He told a press conference: "We knew that Iceland had a strong mentality and they proved as much.
"Their goalkeeper also made two or three good saves. Sometimes it's more difficult to play against 10 players than against 11.
"We said before the game that we were looking to score. We didn't score, but neither did they.
"The impression remains that we are the better team and have a better overall repertoire. They play very simple football with a lot of vertical switching and that's always risky.
"I am confident that we will repeat our dominant display in Zagreb and will ultimately get to Brazil."
Unfortunately for their hosts, Group E runners-up Iceland are similarly confident they can get a result in the Croatian capital - in the process making history by reaching their first major tournament.
And while home boss Kovac continues to present a brave face, visiting captain Aron Gunnarsson thinks the opposition could crack under the weight of expectation if pressure is applied in the right places.
The Cardiff midfielder told mbl.is: "There's no doubt in my mind that we're all switched on for this game. We know there's a lot of pressure on Croatia.
"We've noticed in the media over here that the people are not happy with the team and that they were not satisfied with the result in the first leg.
"We have to put more pressure on them.
"We are not afraid of anything and we intend to make our dreams come true by getting to the World Cup."
Iceland might, however, do well to avoid poring over history books before running out at the Stadion Maksimir.
Their last visit to Zagreb saw them beaten 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier in March 2005 - a certain Niko Kovac scoring twice.
In his new role as coach, the former Croatia midfielder is expected to make two changes for the return leg, replacing winger Ivo Ilicevic and striker Eduardo with Mateo Kovacic and Ivica Olic.
QPR loanee Niko Kranjcar is an alternative option in attack and would win his 82nd cap.
Midfielder Skulason is suspended for Iceland after Friday's dismissal while veteran striker Eidur Gudjohnsen - part of the set-up since 1996 - could enter the fray for the injured Kolbein Sigthorsson.
Former Sweden boss Lars Lagerback may even be tempted to give Birkir Mar Saevarsson a run-out at right-back in the crunch encounter.