Croatia are in pole position to reach the FIFA World Cup™ finals after they secured a 0-0 draw against ten-man Iceland in their Europea play-off in Reykjavik.
Iceland - with a population of just over 300,000 - are hoping to become the smallest nation to play in the finals but they had few chances on Friday and were distinctly second best to their visitors.
However, they are still in with a chance after they held Croatia despite having to play all but six minutes of the second half with ten men following the dismissal of Olafur Skulason for a professional foul on Ivan Perisic.
Iceland went on the attack from the off and in just the second minute Vedran Corluka was forced to block Gylfi Sigurdsson's shot from the centre of the area, the ball going out for a corner which came to nothing.
Despite the hosts making a marginally better start to the game neither side was creating anything clear-cut or testing the opposition goalkeeper. Perisic was involved in everything Croatia were doing, firing over from 25 yards - but in reality there was little of note from either side in the opening half-hour.
Corluka cleared Sigurdsson's free-kick before the visitors came closest to breaking the deadlock when Hannes Thor Halldorsson saved Danijel Pranjic's cross with his feet. Perisic's 20-yard shot was comfortably gathered by Halldorsson but the game reached half-time goalless.
Alfred Finnbogason fired wide for Iceland but the hosts' task became harder just minutes after half-time when Olafur Ingi Skulason was dismissed for a professional foul on Perisic. Mario Mandzukic's resultant free-kick was parried by the keeper before Ivica Olic's long-range effort was comfortably gathered by Halldorsson.
Perisic's shot from the centre of the area was then parried by the keeper as the first eight minutes of the second half showed more attacking urgency than the entire first 45 minutes. The hosts were then indebted to the goalkeeper as he kept out Olic's close-range shot as Croatia attempted to turn the screw.
Iceland weathered the storm though and Pranjic shot from distance although his effort was easily held by Halldorsson. Ivan Rakitic's shot was fumbled before being eventually being held by the keeper, Perisic's free-kick hit the wall and the same player fired wide. Perisic fired over the bar as the clock ticked down.