Russia v Croatia: Will the Russian roulette roll on?
Semi-final place is within touching distance
The last of the four quarter-finals will see Russia take on Croatia for a place in the semi-final of the World Cup.
A mob of Russian fans will descend on Sochi in their droves, the city is sure to have never seen anything like it. Even if they did host the Winter Olympics in 2014.
They enjoyed success when part of the Soviet Union but as Russia they’ve already achieved the unthinkable. They left the 2002 and 2014 tournaments with a combined points tally of 5.
Croatia will be looking to equal their best performance on international football’s grandest stage. They got to the last-four twenty years ago at France ’98.
The Coral News Team look at how this one could play out…
Croatia boast a hatful of talent amongst their ranks. Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic and Mateo Kovacic have won the Champions League. And Ivan Perisic has been a prolific player in Europe.
But one man stands out above them all. The captain. Leader and talisman. Luka Modric.
The Real Madrid midfielder glides around the pitch looking unflustered. He has a pass success rate of 85.4% for the tournament. Making 60 passes on average per game and notching two goals to date.
The 32-year-old may feel this is his final swansong to thrust his nation into the spot-light.
It certainly won’t be easy against an inspired Russian outfit but Modric may have bit more magic to muster.
We should have known Russia weren’t here just for the ride when they beat Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening game.
Despite losing Alan Dzagoev in that game, the team have come together and have seen some new stars come to the fore.
Aleksander Golovin, Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba have been the pick of the bunch.
They’ve notched nine goals so far joint-second with England. Cheryshev and Dzyuba and have three apiece but the rest have been shared around the team.
Igor Akinfeev played his part in the penalty shoot-out win over Spain in the last-16. It will take another mammoth effort to usurp this talented Croatian team and make it to the semi-finals.
Top level experience
Whereas Russia’s top player Golovin plies his trade in his homeland. Croatia have a squad of seasoned professionals that are play all across Europe.
As mentioned they have a team full of players that have competed in Champions League finals and won leagues across Spain, Italy and Germany to name a few.
Ante Rebic has stepped up to the plate after a fine season with Eintracht Frankfurt. And with rumours already swirling of a summer move to the Premier League he will want to continue his fine-form.
It looks like the time is now for this squad of players. But they will have to roll the dice and hope it comes up with right combinations to beat this resolute Russia side.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing