The clash between Russia and Croatia will be played at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi on July 7th. The Russians never defeated Croatia in the previous three meetings, but two of those ended without goals, while the Blazers won the latest friendly clash in November 2015.
Russia vs. Croatia
Three-Way: 1: Russia +300; X: +225 Draw; 2: Croatia -105 (Odds provided by Delaware Park Sportsbook)
Spread +0.5: Russia -143; Croatia +120
Total 2.5 goals: Over +175; Under -222
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The Sbornaya never advanced through the group stage and reached Round of 16 until now when they even made a step forward and progressed to the quarter-finals after defeating one of the biggest favorites to win the World Cup. Russia excellently defended against Spain and beat them despite having only one shot on target in 120 minutes. Spain had 75% of ball possession while they attempted nine shots on target, but Igor Akinfeev saved all of them as the only goals the Red Fury scored was actually Sergey Ignashevich’s own goal. Stanislav Cherchesov’s side was better on penalties and will hope for the similar outcome when they face Croatia.
On the other end, Croatia was one of the most impressive teams at the World Cup in a group stage, but they failed to convince us they have what it takes to go all the way following a display in the Round of 16 against Denmark. Same like the Russians, they advanced to the quarter-finals thanks to a penalty shootout and Danijel Subasic who saved even three penalties including Christian Eriksen’s. It is possible that we’re going to see a similar game here and witness another penalty lottery, but still, Croatia has a better chance to make it to the semis.
Players to watch
Artem Dzyuba is Russia’s top scorer at the tournament with three goals and his strength and ability to cause problems playing with his back to the goal should be the hosts’ biggest weapon on this one. Domagoj Vida and Dejan Lovren are excellent in the air, but Dzyuba can change the course of the game with just one move, so the Blazers must be aware of his qualities.
Mario Mandzukic disappointed at the World Cup so far as he recorded a miserable one goal and no assists, and this could be his opportunity to shine. Mandzukic has fantastic teammates that can create a goal chance, so he will rely on Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, and Ivan Perisic to feed him from the midfield.
Russia: Akinfeev; Fernandes; Ignashevich, Kutepov, Zhirkov (Granat); Zobnin, Gazinskiy; Samedov, Golovin, Cheryshev; Dzyuba.
Croatia: Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovre, Vida, Strinic (Pivaric); Brozovic (Kovacic), Rakitic; Perisic, Modric, Rebic; Mandzukic.
Russia’s chances to win the World Cup are now +2000, while the Sbornaya is +500 to reach the finals. Croatia’s chances to win the World Cup are now +650, while the Blazers are +188 to reach the finals.
Croatia is a favorite at -105, but the hosts will have a huge support from the fans and will be playing on the wings of a win over Spain, so anything could happen here. I believe the Blazers have better individuals and better team, but something is telling me that this will not be settled in the regular 90 minutes.
The Pick: Draw (+225)