Friday, November 16, 2018

Prediction: Russia vs Croatia

Verdict: Away win

Best Odds: 6/5

Bookmaker: William Hill

Buoyed by the impressive triumph over 2010 World Cup winners Spain, hosts Russia have got a great opportunity to reach the semi-finals of the 2018 tournament. However, their opponents Croatia will also see this game as a good chance to edge closer to the coveted trophy.

Russia

Having largely struggled in warm-up games ahead of the 2018 World Cup finals, Russia were expected to have a tough task of qualifying for the knockout stages, but the tournament hosts managed to use the huge support from the entire nation to their advantage. The opening 5-0 hammering of Saudi Arabia gave the team a much needed confidence boost, helping them overcome the first serious obstacle by defeating Egypt 3-1.

Sbornaya komanda were then beaten 3-0 by Uruguay in the final group fixture, setting up a clash with mighty Spain in the first knockout phase, and that is where head coach Stanislav Cherchesov was needed to step up his game. The experienced tactician asked his players to trust them as he set up a very defensive unit and that strategy eventually worked as Russia managed to secure their place in the next stage after a penalty shoot-out. The hosts are expected to adopt a similar approach in their next fixture, but we seriously doubt potent Croatia will be as forgiving as La Furia Roja.

Team News

Stanislav Cherchesov is sweating over the fitness of Alan Dzagoev and Yuri Zhirkov, but both could be in contention for the quarter-final game.

Croatia

After achieving a third-place finish at their first World Cup as an independent nation, Croatia enjoyed several disappointing tournaments, crashing out in the group stage at the 2002, 2006 and 2014 editions, while failing to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. With the team having failed to impress in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and appointing a new boss ahead of the play-offs, not much was expected of Vatreni in Russia, but they have so far managed to exceed expectations.

Croatia impressed to defeat Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland in the group stage, with their 3-0 triumph over Los Albicelestes especially acting as a major confidence boost. Vatreni were then pitted against Denmark in the last 16 stage and while they were not at their best, the team showed a great deal of character to recover from a number of missed chances, including a late Luka Modric penalty, and eventually won the game after a penalty shoot-out. The entire nation is now behind the team as they plan to make an assault on the coveted title and we fully expect them to defeat Russia and qualify for the semi-finals.

Team News

Head coach Zlatko Dalic is unlikely to make major changes to the side that defeated Denmark, although Ivan Strinic is doubtful through a muscle problem. Nikola Kalinic had been sent home earlier.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Russia and Croatia played out two goalless draws in Euro 2008 qualifiers
  • Croatia won the 2015 friendly 3-1 on the road
  • Russia’s four games at the 2018 World Cup produced 14 games
  • Croatia won last five fixtures, conceding 3 goals in total
  • Both teams progressed to the last 8 after a penalty shoot-out

Conclusion

Russia were quite fortunate to eliminate Spain after penalties and we seriously doubt they will be able to match very good Croatia side, who’s got plenty of quality in midfield and attack. With the likes of Modric, Rakitic and Perisic likely to run the show in midfield, we see a great value in betting against the hosts.

Verdict: Away win

Best Odds: 6/5

Bookmaker: William Hill

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