2018 FIFA World Cup Prediction: Russia vs Croatia

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Verdict: Croatia to go through

Best Odds: 11/20

Bookmaker: 888sport

The last quarter final of them all. This is the one where we will find out if the Russian fairytale can continue. Russia managed to make it to the last eight despite being the lowest ranked team in the FIFA rankings. Nevertheless, their heroic and stubborn display against Spain earned them the place in the quarterfinals, their by far the best result since the end of the USSR. Croatia, on the other hand, similarly managed to get past Denmark, as well after a penalty shoot-out. Now, Zlatko Dalic’s team will be the favourites and that is a tag they will have to live up to.

Russia

This has been a marvelous tournament for Russia. Not only are they hosts, but the results they have been making are far beyond anyone expected, not even in Russia itself. They started off by beating Saudi Arabia 5-0 and then thrashing Mohamed Salah’s Egypt 3-1. That was the best start any World Cup host ever had, since 1930, but they did not manage to get past Uruguay in their fight for the top spot in Group A. However, they did not care too much. Playing against Spain was maybe always going to be tough, but it proved to be the right path for them. Spain were far from their best, unable to even create proper chances during 120 minutes of football. Spain circulated around with the ball at their feat, never really threatening and Russia managed to get to the penalties. There, it was Igor Akinfeev who was the hero, while Spain’s players were not shooting the penalties too well. Now, Russia will have another big task in front of them, but this one will not be as huge, at least by the name of the team. Croatia are a tough oponent, but they have also shown complacency against Denmark. Russians will be hopeful of another miracle.

Team News

Yuri Zhirkov will not play for Russia, as he has been sidelined through injury since the opening day. He will be available to coach Cherchesov only if Russia reach the final.

Croatia

Croatia did perfectly in their group. They beat Nigeria comfortably without doing too much and tiring themselves. Then Argentina fell at their hands, as Croatia ripped through their meek defence. And then five senior players were rested as Croatia won 2-1 against Iceland and confirmed their first place with nine points out of as many available. That meant Croatia were firm favourites against Denmark, but they did not play as well as they can in that match. Denmark were tough to break and Croatia seemed unexpectedly tiresome and blunt going forwards. They will definitely want to change that against the hosts, as they will be heavily backed in Sochi. Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric and the company should get to their best as the tournament is entering its crucial period.

Team News

Mateo Kovacic and Ivan Strinic will not play due to problems with injuries.

Conclusion

Croatia are favourites here and as much as they have been underwhelming against Denmark, that penalty win should wake them up. They have a great chance of repeating the 1998 World Cup and I expect them to get to the semifinal here. Result? Unimportant.

Verdict: Croatia to go through

Best Odds: 11/20

Bookmaker: 888sport

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