FIFA World Cup: Russia vs Croatia preview


Host nation Russia are looking to produce another surprise when they meet Croatia in the FIFA World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday evening at Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi. The two teams have last met in a friendly match in 2015 and that time Croatia grabbed a clear 3-1 victory after Russia had enjoyed a 1-0 lead at half time. Before that match the two nations met twice in the qualification campaign for Euro 2008 and both those matches ended goalless while both teams qualified for the respective final tournament.

Russia had a great start to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, beating Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening match of the event, but few expected Stanislav Cherchesov's men to go very far in the tournament. The 3-1 victory over Egypt, which gave Russia their tickets for the first knockout round, was followed by a comprehensive 3-0 beating at the hands of Uruguay, a result which didn't leave much room for optimism. However, the Russians fought hard against former champions Spain in the first knockout round and eventually prevailed after the penalty shoot-out. Yuri Zhirkov picked up an injury during that last match and might miss out along with Alan Dzagoev.

Croatia have been quite dominant in the group stage, they started with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Nigeria, then cruised to a 3-0 victory over Argentina and even rested most of their first-choice players in the 2-1 victory over Iceland. However, their first knockout round match against Denmark was quite complicated and the Croatians needed to go through a nervy penalty shootout before reaching the last eight. Ivan Strinic picked up a knock during the Denmark match and might be forced miss Saturday's game.

Probable line-ups:

Russia: Akinfeev - Fernandes, Kutepov, Ignashevich, Kudryashov - Gazinskiy, Zobnin - Samedov, Golovin, Cheryshev - Dzyuba

Croatia: Subasic - Vrsaljko, Vida, Lovren, Strinic - Rebic, Modric, Brozovic, Rakitic, Perisic - Mandzukic

My prediction: Croatia to win 1-0, they are the better team and should be able to find their way past the Russian defence at least once.

Here are the odds for this match at Bet365:

Russia win - 3.90
Draw - 3.10
Croatia win - 2.25

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