ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia reached next year’s World Cup finals after goals from striker Mario Mandzukic and captain Darijo Srna secured a 2-0 aggregate win over Iceland following an action-packed return leg of their playoff on Tuesday.
Mandzukic opened the scoring with a clinical goal in the 27th minute but was sent off for a vicious foul on Johann Gudmundsson shortly before halftime, raising concerns that Croatia might fail to qualify for next year’s tournament after missing out on the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
But the home side were unfazed by being a man down and Srna added the second goal straight after the break, rifling in a stinging low shot from 15 meters as he cut in on the right flank after a darting run and pinpoint delivery by midfielder Mateo Kovacic.
Kovacic missed a clearcut chance when Iceland keeper Hannes Halldorsson turned his low shot around the post and Ivica Olic crashed a spectacular overhead kick against the crossbar as Croatia hit top gear to end Iceland’s hopes of qualifying for their first major tournament.
Editing by Josh Reich