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Iceland 1-2 Croatia: Ivan Perisic ends Icelandic World Cup dream with late strike

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Iceland fell short in their bid to reach the knockout stages in their debut World Cup as Croatia topped Group D with a win.

Milan Badelj put Vatreni ahead against the run of play, before Gylfi Sigurdsson kept Iceland alive with 15 minutes left.

Badelj celebrates his opener

The tiny nation from Scandinavia needed a victory to progress and it would’ve been enough after Argentina’s late goal to beat Nigeria. But it was Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic who found a winner in the 90th minute to set up a last-16 clash with Denmark.

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Iceland carried all the impetus in their pursuit of an all-or-nothing win.

They dominated the heavily-rotated Croats in terms of chances – Alfreo Finnbogarson and Birkir Bjarnason both went close at the end of the first-half before Croatian goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic pulled off an incredible save from Aron Gunnarsson’s long-range effort.

One of nine changes made by Zlatko Dalic included Fiorentina captain Milan Badelj. And the central midfielder justified his inclusion, arriving late and slamming home a superb volley on 53 minutes to do Argentina and Nigeria a huge favour.

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Sigurdsson levelled from the spot

Sverrir Ingi Ingason was the unlikely man to lead the Icelandic charge, missing two free headers in the space of a minute as Iceland continued to threaten from set-pieces.

But a goal made in Merseyside resurrected Iceland’s hope. Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren’s first involvement was to handle the ball inside the box, before Everton’s Sigurdsson made amends for his miss against Nigeria by finding the roof of the net with his penalty.

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And despite Iceland’s desperate search for a historic goal, Croatia made it three group wins from three with a smash-and-grab winner from one of two players to remain in the starting line-up. Perisic showed his class with a fantastic left-footed finish at the death.

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