FIFA World Cup 2018
Russia vs Croatia
Fisht Olympic Stadium, Russia
Saturday, 07-07-2018 @09:00pm
Hosts Russia have performed beyond expectation at their own World cup having reached a first ever quarter final after overcoming Spain in the round of 16.
Stanislav Cherchesov’s side came into this year’s World cup as the lowest ranked side and they were one many book makers’ picks not to reach the knock-out stages.
After winning against Spain in the second round, it is fair to say that they are living in a dream that they don’t want to wake up from.
On Saturday, the host have a chance of reaching the semi finals, a fate that could not have been imagined a few weeks ago.
Their opponents come in a Croatian side that endured the anxiety of penalty shoot-outs to eliminate Denmark in the last round.
Yuri Zhirkov, who began Russia’s last game at left wing-back, is ruled out with a calf problem.
Alan Dzagoev, who has not played since damaging his hamstring in the opening match, could come back into contention despite a back problem.
Croatia’s Ivan Strinic appeared to be nursing an injury when he was subbed after 81 minutes against Denmark, but is expected to be available.
Mateo Kovacic, who has been troubled by a shoulder problem, should also be fit.
What they are saying ahead of the game:
Russia head coach Stanislav Cherchesov:
“As a coach I am trying not to watch the TV, I don’t read papers, I am concentrating on my job and I believe that is the same for the players.
“I am trying not to get distracted. If I get a newspaper I will read a headline. Criticism is good but I believe we should have our eyes and ears open.
“We Russians like extremes so let’s not go to these extremes. I believe it should be constructive, analytical criticism.
Croatia winger Ante Rebic:
“I think we have more quality in our team and I think we are going to be the ones to set the tone.
The two previous competitive meetings, in qualifying for Euro 2008, both ended 0-0.
The last five host nations to feature in a World Cup quarter-final have all progressed to the semi-final (Italy in 1990, France in 1998, South Korea in 2002, Germany in 2006 and Brazil in 2014).
Mexico were the last tournament hosts to bow out at this stage, losing on penalties to West Germany in 1986.
This is Russia’s first World Cup quarter-final since reaching this stage at four consecutive tournaments between 1958 and 1970 whilst competing as the Soviet Union.
Excluding penalty shootouts, Russia are winless in their last five World Cup knock-out games (D1, L4), with their last victory a 2-1 win against Hungary in the quarter-finals of the 1966 tournament, which is the only previous occasion they have reached the semi-finals.
Again excluding shoot-outs, Russia are winless in their last seven World Cup games against European sides (D2, L5), with their last victory coming in 1986 (also against Hungary).
The Croats’ only previous World Cup quarter-final was their 3-0 win against Germany at France ’98.
That victory is also the last time they have won a knockout match at a major tournament without the aid of a penalty shoot-out.
Croatia have scored in their last eight World Cup games, netting 16 goals in total.
The winner will take on one of Engand and Sweden who play out the other quarter final game on Saturday afternoon.
Read Also: England eyes first semi final appearance since 1990