Croatia were on a mission to restore fans' faith in the national team when they beat Iceland 2-0 in Zagreb on Tuesday to book their place in the FIFA World Cup finals. The ten men got the better of a visiting side who simply "did not play well enough" according to retiring striker Eidur Gudjohnsen.
Niko Kovač, Croatia coach
I really want to congratulate my players – they left their heart and their soul on the pitch. I am proud of them. We couldn't have dreamed that we would have such an impressive performance in only my second match in charge. We have a vision: we tried to show it in the first match, but it was an away game and it wasn't easy. This was much better and everybody saw the traditional Croatian skills, technique, possession and dangerous balls forward.
I have played in games like this so I know how big the pressure can be. These players are professionals playing at top clubs, but in these matches there is some fear and confidence can evaporate. You could see that in the first match, but we agreed to do everything we could and fight for the victory. At the end the result could have been 4-0 or 5-0.
Darijo Srna, Croatia midfielder
We were completely focused on Iceland. We showed our character and we deserved this. The spur was when we felt that some of the fans had lost faith in us, and we knew we didn't want to disappoint them any more. After we went down to ten men, I told my players in the dressing room that Iceland also had ten men and they managed to hold us in the first leg, so we need to do that too and are absolutely capable of doing it. I think the second goal was the crucial moment in the match. I have received a lot of criticism lately but after this I think I showed I am still able to play for the national team.
Mateo Kovačić, Croatia midfielder
Ahead of this match we agreed in the dressing room that we needed to put anything negative and bad behind us. We said we needed to give everything we had on the pitch for Croatia, and we did it. We had an excellent game, put phenomenal pressure on the Iceland defence and managed to score twice, as well as having some more opportunities. We really deserved this and we are looking forward to the World Cup.
Lars Lagerbäck, Iceland coach
I am a little bit sad that we didn't seem to have the guts to do what we wanted to do. A part of that is down to Croatia having a very good game. We just gave the ball away and came into the game the wrong way.
It was not good that they scored so early in second half. I do not want say that we were paralysed but close to it. It is totally quiet in the dressing room and the players are very disapointed but we have to learn from this and step up little bit more.
Eidur Gudjohnsen, Iceland striker
We did not play well enough this evening. At the start, we were scared to keep control of the ball and play together – there were too many long balls forward and we did not keep possession.
Then the Croatians get the red card, and we tried to keep calm until half-time, but I think it is obvious their second goal killed our game. Sadly, the first game in Iceland, where we played with one man down for 40 minutes, took a lot out of us.
All Icelanders had begun dreaming about success, but after we have recovered we must get together and try to celebrate what we achieved in the group and the milestone we set. Hopefully we can remember that we made the nation a little bit happier and created some excitement around the national team. [Bursting into tears] I am afraid this was my last national game.
Aron Einar Gunnarsson, Iceland midfielder
We are just very disappointed. We planned to do much better but did not play like we wanted in the second half. It was hard to face Croatia, and their second goal shook us up, coming so early in the second half, but that stirred us up and we should have kept the ball better.
Many of us in the team did not have our best day when it mattered the most, and we have to do better next time. This tournament is over and the only thing we can do is to concentrate on the next one.
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