It took nearly two hours, but Croatia finally broke through against Iceland. Ten minutes later, Croatia were down to ten men, but it hardly mattered: Iceland were broken. Break out the glasses and raise the rakija, Croatia. Živjeli -- you're off to Brazil and your fourth World Cup as an independent nation.
At first, it looked as though this match would simply be an extension of Friday's leg in Reykjavík, with Croatia constantly attacking and Iceland having little desire to do more than defend. This conservatism proved to be their undoing.
Just before the half-hour mark, Croatia took the lead following a corner from Ivan Rakitic. Ivan Perisic got just the tiniest touch to put the ball in the path of Mario Mandzukic, enabling the forward to drive a sharp shot past Hannes Thór Halldórsson. Yeah, we were all just as surprised as you.
With Iceland needing just an equalizer to land themselves in Brazil, Croatia continued to press. But their eagerness got them into trouble ten minutes after the goal, when Mandzukic made the decision to stick his boot in a very sensitive part of Johann Berg Gudmundsson's anatomy. The referee instantly pulled out the red card, reducing Croatia to ten men -- and very likely keeping Mandzukic out of every group stage match. Well done, Mario.
But by that point, Iceland had completely broken. Man advantage or not, they couldn't find a way through. In fact, Alfred Finnbogaso's free kick after Mandzukic's sending off was the closest Iceland came, forcing Stipe Pletikosa into his only save on the night.
So really, it was no surprise when Croatia scored their second, ensuring their passage to the World Cup. It was a lovely little goal, too, with young Mateo Kovacic dribbling his way up the field before sending the ball out to his right. Darijo Srna came racing up the flank, connecting just inside the area and sending his low drive across Halldórsson to nestle into the corner.
Croatia starting lineup: Pletikosa; Pranjic, Simunic, Corluka, Srna; Modric (Lovren 89), Rakitic; Olic (Jelavic 80), Kovacic (Rebic 74), Perisic; Mandzukic
Goals: Mandzukic 27', Srna 47'
Iceland starting lineup: Halldórsson; Skulason, Sigurdsson, Arnason, Saevarsson; Bjarnason, Sigurdsson, Gunnarsson (Hallfredsson 72), Gudmundsson; Finnbogason, Gudjohnsen (Gislason 64)