Hosts, Russia, are still on course to win their first ever soccer world cup, but must get past a fiery Croatian side in a quarter-final clash on Saturday.
Russia will face high-flying Croatia in the quarter-finals of the soccer world cup on Saturday in Sochi. The Croatians are favourites to progress to the semis but the Russians are thriving as the underdogs.
Russia vs Croatia | Quarter-Final | Sat. 7 July | Olimpiyskiy Stadion Fisht | 20:00
To Win (90 mins)
Russia, who came into the soccer world cup as the lowest-ranked team at No. 70 in the world, overcame all the odds to advance to the quarter-finals after edging Spain 4-3 on penalties. This came thanks to two saves by their goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev following a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes and extra-time.
Despite managing just one shot on target compared to Spain’s nine during the game, Russia held out against waves of Spanish attacks. Spain dominated the possession – completing more than 1000 passes – but were too passive against a well-organized Russian defence.
After eliminating one of the tournament favourites, the host nation will be high on confidence and optimistic of reaching the semi-finals for the first time in their history. Stanislav Cherchesov’s side will hope the advantage of being on home soil propels them to the semis.
Artem Dzyuba, Aleksander Golovin and Denis Cheryshev are all dangerous and can hurt the Croatians while Alan Dzagoev, who injured his hamstring in his country’s 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia in their first soccer world cup, could make his return.
Croatia also booked their place in the quarter-finals via a shootout victory, beating Denmark 3-2 on penalties after their clash finished 1-1 after 90 minutes and extra-time at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.
Luka Modric had the chance to send the Croats through to the quarter-finals with a penalty four minutes from the end of extra-time, but Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel dived to his left to save the spot kick.
Modric, however, converted his penalty in the shootout and Ivan Rakitic scored the decider with a shot to the left side of the net as Schmeichel dived the wrong way. Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic was the star of the show though as he saved three penalties and Croatia’s soccer world cup hopes.
The Vatreni have reached the soccer world cup quarter-finals for the first time since 1998 when they went on to reach the semi-finals. They’ll be hoping to go all the way in Russia but coach Zlatko Dalic is expecting a very difficult game against the host nation.
“The quarter-final [match] will be very hard since we will play against the hosts,” Dalic said post-match. “Russia is a difficult and great opponent. We will try to stay careful and even stronger than before on the pitch.”
Croatia have had seven different scorers in this edition of the soccer world cup. Modric, Rakitic, Ante Rebic, Ivan Perisic, Milan Badelj and Mario Mandzukic have all scored, meaning no team has produced more goalscorers during this tournament.
Verdict: Croatia To Qualify (6/10)
Croatia were impressive in the group stage, winning all of their games, including a 3-0 dismantling of two-time champions Argentina, but Denmark provided tough opposition for Zlatko Dalic’s men. It’s going to be another difficult game for the Vatreni against Russia but I’m backing them to eliminate the hosts. To be safe, take Croatia to qualify at 6/10.