Croatia must beware of Iceland's impressive away form

Unbeaten in their last five games on the road and with 17 goals scored in 10 trips off the island, Lars Lagerback's side are far from finished as they prepare for Tuesday's clash
By Joe Wright

New Croatia coach Niko Kovac was full of confidence after Saturday's 0-0 World Cup play-off first leg draw with Iceland in Reykjavik.

"After this game, I think our team has more quality and strength. We know how Iceland play and I am sure that we will control the game in Zagreb," he said.

On paper at least, the 42-year-old is probably right. While Croatia were at times listless and sluggish against the 10 men of Iceland in the first leg, a side boasting Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Perisic, Ivica Olic and Eduardo should have more than enough firepower over 180 minutes to overcome a side ranked 18 places below them at 46.
Iceland's results on the road
Albania 1-2 Iceland
Andorra 0-2 Iceland
Slovenia 1-2 Iceland
Switzerland 4-4 Iceland
15/10/13 Norway 1-1 Iceland

But that's until you consider Iceland's away form in the past 12 months. After suffering five consecutive away defeats in 2012 - including a 1-0 loss in Cyprus, the only victory the Mediterranean island managed in the group - Lars Lagerback's side went on a stunning run away from home, picking up three wins and two draws from five games.

Among those results was a famous draw with group winners Switzerland, when Johann Gudmundsson's sensational hat-trick saw them come back from 4-1 down to draw 4-4 in Berne, before they secured their place in the play-offs with a battling point in Norway. A repeat of either scoreline on Tuesday would see them reach Brazil.

Even their run of defeats prior to the win in Albania which began that run offers a glimpse of more promise. In tough trips to Japan, Montenegro, France, Sweden and Portugal, Iceland still managed to score nine goals, proving the kind of fearless approach which will serve them well in Zagreb.

Croatia are undoubtedly favourites to reach the finals in Brazil after the first-leg draw, and the loss of Olafur Skulason and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson to suspension and injury will hamper the islanders' hopes of springing a shock. But should Kovac's confidence in his side turn into complacency, Iceland will be more than ready to secure one last scalp on the road.