Thursday 19 July 2018

Everything you need to know about Spain v Russia and Croatia v Denmark

Luka Modric has been one of the players of the tournament
Luka Modric has been one of the players of the tournament
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

France and Uruguay have already booked their place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup and two more teams will join them today. Here's what you need to know.

SPAIN v RUSSIA - 3pm

The euphoria surrounding Russia’s winning start to this World Cup evaporated swiftly when they squared up against Uruguay last Monday, with the gulf in class between the two sides reflected in the final 3-0 scoreline in favour of the South Americans.

Stanislav Cherchesov and his Russia players were cast as national heroes after opening wins against Saudi Arabia and Egypt, with their fall from grace against Uruguay dousing their hopes of glory on home soil this summer.

Yet Spain were equally unimpressive as they scrambled a 2-2 draw against Morocco in their final Group B game, with a late Iran equaliser against Portugal offering Fernando Hierro’s players a fortunate route into the weaker bottom half of the Russia 2018 draw.

“We cannot achieve our ultimate goal of winning this World Cup unless some key elements improve,” states the Spain coach. “Clearly, conceding five goals in three group games is not good enough and many of those goals are down to mistakes. We respect Russia and if we continue to make mistakes, this game will be difficult for us.”

ONE TO WATCH: David De Gea (Spain)

The Manchester United keeper has not been at his best at this World Cup and there have been suggestions that he might be dropped for this game, but coach Hierro is standing by his No.1 despite strong criticism flowing in his direction.

WHERE TO WATCH:  RTE2/BBC One

ODDS: Spain 8/15, Draw 3/1, Russia 11/2

VERDICT: Spain to have too much attacking firepower for the hosts.

CROATIA v DENMARK - 7pm

The Denmark side that hammered Ireland in the World Cup play-offs last November have already achieved their stated aim of plotting a route to the last-16 in Russia.

“The night when we qualified in Dublin was very special, but we have achieved so much to come through what was one of the toughest groups at this World Cup,” believes Denmark coach Age Hareide.

“Croatia are a very good team. They have looked like one of the best teams in this competition so far and we accept they will be tough opponents, but we have to be smart when we play this team. Good organisation, pressing a little higher, trying to deny them space. If we execute our plan, we can then show our own strengths.”

Croatia’s impressed as they collected maximum points in what turned out to be a dramatic set of fixtures in Group D, yet the statistics confirm they were second best in the possession stakes in their wins against Argentina and Iceland, with the second of those games seeing coach Zlatko Dalic drop ten of his first-choice player ahead of the Denmark clash.

ONE TO WATCH: Ivan Rakitic (Croatia)

Luka Modric may steal the headlines for Croatia, but Rakitic is the kingpin who provides their spark.

WHERE TO WATCH:  RTE2/ITV

ODDS: Croatia 8/11, Draw 12/5, Denmark 9/2

VERDICT: Croatia will pick Denmark apart to seal a quarter-final spot.

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