Tournament hosts Russia knocked out an underwhelming Spanish team in their round of 16-tie and will be full of confidence against a very good Croatia team. Russia was as solid as ever with home support roaring them to victory. Artem Dzyuba has become a colossus for Russia in attack with his physicality and aerial prowess. He will have to be well marshalled by Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida – it will be hard for them to cope. Aleksandr Golovin and Dennis Cheryshev will act as supporting casts to the big man upfront.
Croatia led by Luka Modric were far from impressive against Denmark and the Danish quite frankly were unlucky to not have qualified. However, the Croatian team is well balanced and they are likely to dominate the midfield unlike their last game. They also have a big man of their own in Mario Mandzukic who has bags of quality and experience.
This game, however, is the toughest for me to call because Croatia finds it slightly hard to defeat European teams – but I will go for a 2-1 victory for Croatia.
- The two previous competitive meetings, in qualifying for Euro 2008, both ended 0-0.
- The only other encounter was a friendly match in November 2015 which saw the Croats win 3-1 in Rostov-on-Don. The Russians led at half-time through Fedor Smolov’s goal but second-half strikes from Nikola Kalinic, Marcelo Brozovic and Mario Mandzukic won it for the visitors.
- The last five host nations to feature in a World Cup quarter-final have all progressed to the semi-final (Italy in 1990, France in 1998, South Korea in 2002, Germany in 2006 and Brazil in 2014).
- Mexico were the last tournament hosts to bow out at this stage, losing on penalties to West Germany in 1986.
- This is Russia’s first World Cup quarter-final since reaching this stage at four consecutive tournaments between 1958 and 1970 whilst competing as the Soviet Union.
- Excluding penalty shootouts, Russia are winless in their last five World Cup knock-out games (D1, L4), with their last victory a 2-1 win against Hungary in the quarter-finals of the 1966 tournament, which is the only previous occasion they have reached the semi-finals.
- Again excluding shoot-outs, Russia are winless in their last seven World Cup games against European sides (D2, L5), with their last victory coming in 1986 (also against Hungary).
- After having 10 shots on target in their first two games, Russia have managed two in their subsequent two matches (one versus Uruguay and one against Spain).
- Russia have conceded two own goals at this World Cup – Bulgaria in 1966 are the only other side to concede two at the same tournament.
- The Croats’ only previous World Cup quarter-final was their 3-0 win against Germany at France ’98.
- That victory is also the last time they have won a knockout match at a major tournament without the aid of a penalty shoot-out.
- Croatia have scored in their last eight World Cup games, netting 16 goals in total.
- Of their last 12 World Cup goals, 10 have come after half-time.
- The Croats have lost their two previous World Cup games against host nations, losing 2-1 to France in the semi-finals in 1998 and 3-1 to Brazil in the group stage in 2014.