Russia will be adamant to showcase yet another impressive performance when they take on Croatia in the last quarterfinal encounter of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The hosts have taken everyone by storm, none more so than with their local fans who are increasingly accepting that they too are worthy contenders for the much coveted prize.
Russia’s blistering 5-0 victory over beating boys Saudi Arabia and their emphatic 3-1 win over Egypt had the host nation cautious over putting a limit on their side. They were nonetheless handed a harsh reality check in the final match of Group A where they ignominiously fell to a 3-0 thumping at the hands of eventual group winners Uruguay.
Be that as it may, the hosts draw their biggest encouragement of the tournament from their round of 16 encounter with Spain. It may have been a mismatch from the offset, with the fundamental differences in quality and philosophy too obvious, yet the final result was too bad to be true. Russia unceremoniously sent the 2010 world champions home after winning the tie 4-3 on post match penalties.
The match itself was far from having notable net bursting action, as La Furia Roja’s opening goal was through a Sergei Ignashevich own goal. The veteran Russian defender mistakenly drove the ball past his own goalkeeper as he attempted to prevent Sergio Ramos from getting on the finishing end of Marco Asensio’s exquisite free kick at the far post.
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Despite the fact that Spain had the lion’s share of possession, controlling proceedings with their grace and flair, Fernando Hierro’s side couldn’t do much with it as the hosts defended resolutely – keen not to make a mountain out of a mole hill by conceding a second goal.
Stanislav Cherchesov’s charges eventually found their breakthrough right before the interval through an Artem Dzyuba strike from the spot after Gerard Pique lousily gave away a penalty.
It was quite vivid that Russia’s game plan was to head to post match penalties, as they rarely threatened going forward and remained fervent with their defensive line. Their unwavering confidence and unflinching nerves in the long run saw them through, as Spain were put to the sword 4-3 on post match penalties.
Croatia likewise booked their passage into the last eight on post match penalties; albeit with a 3-2 victory over Denmark. The encounter began with combustible goalmouth action, as both sides scored within the first three minutes through Mathias Jorgensen and Mario Mandzukic – only for the action to fizzle out for the rest of the match.
The Danes will certainly feel hard done by with the defeat, as they survived a late scare after Luka Modric missed a golden chance to secure a last dash winner, as the Real Madrid midfielder had his extra time penalty save by the incomparable Kasper Schmeichel.
Croatia looks set to field a full strength side in the last eight while the hosts have lingering injury doubts over the availability of Yuri Zhirkov and Aleksandr Samedov.
Croatia vs. Russia betting predictions
In a tournament where the big guns have not fired, with the likes of Germany, Argentina, Portugal and Spain making early exits, several dark horses have resultantly emerged.
Russia only looked to be making a token appearance as the tournament hosts with few ever giving them a fighting chance, and rightly so given they were the lowest positioned team at the tournament at 70th in the final FIFA rankings.
Stanislav Cherchesov’s side has however proven that they are not just there to make up the numbers, which sets precedent for an enticing encounter with Croatia.
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Russa & Croatia recent results
Russia 5-0 Saudi Arabia (June 14, 2018)
Yuri Gazinsky 12′
Denis Cheryshev 43′, 90’+1
Artem Dzyuba 71′
Aleksandr Golovin 90’+4
Russia 3-1 Egypt (June 19, 2018)
Ahmed Fathy 47′ (OG)
Denis Cheryshev 59′
Artem Dzyuba 62′
Mohamed Salah 73′ (P)
Uruguay 3-0 Russia (June 25, 2018)
Luis Suarez 10′
Denis Cheryshev 23′ (OG)
Edinson Cavani 90′
Spain 1-1(3-4) Russia (July 1, 2018)
Sergei Ignashevich 11′ (OG)
Artem Dzyuba 41′ (P)
Croatia 2-0 Nigeria (June 16, 2018)
Oghenekaro Etebo 32′ (OG)
Luka Modric 71 (P)
Argentina 0-3 Croatia (June 21, 2018)
Ante Rebic 53′
Luka Modric 80′
Ivan Rakitic 90+1′
Iceland 1-2 Croatia (June 26, 2018)
Gylfi Sigurdsson 76′ (P)
Milan Badelj 53′
Ivan Perisic 90′
Croatia 1-1(3-2) Denmark (July 1, 2018)
Mario Mandzukic 4′
Mathias Jorgensen 1′
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