Croatia vs. Russia
|Date & Time||Saturday July 7, 2018, 2:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Russia +278 / Croatia +124 -- Over/Under: 2
We have some FIFA World Cup action from the Fisht Olympic Stadium on Saturday as the host Russia battles Croatia in a quarterfinal matchup.
Russia comes into this fixture after pulling off what many would consider an upset after defeating Spain in penalties in the round of 16 on Sunday. Sergey Ignashevich deflected the ball into his own net in the 12th minute to give Spain the lead before Artem Dzyuba equalized for Russia from the penalty spot in the 41st minute following a handball from Spain’s Pique in the penalty area. The match remained level through 120 minutes, followed by converted penalties from Fedor Smolov, the aforementioned Ignashevich, Aleksandr Golovin and Denis Cheryshev. The MVP for Russia has to be goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, who made a pair of key stops on Spain’s Koke and Iago Aspas in the shootout to give the hosts the victory. Spain dominated statistically, owning 75% possession and outshooting Russia 25-6 and 9-1 in terms of shots on goal.
Croatia on the other side had to punch their ticket to the quarters via the penalty shootout as well, defeating Denmark in the round of 16. Mathias Jorgensen gave the Danes the lead in the opening minute of the match, followed by a Croatian equalizer just three minutes later from Mario Mandzukic. The match would stay tied through the second half and through both halves of extra time, leading to one of the most exhilarating and exciting shootouts in recent memory. Daniel Subasic made three key saves in the shootout, while Andrej Kramaric, Luka Madrid and Ivan Rakitic each converted from the spot in the shootout. Croatia out possessed Denmark 53%-47%, and outshot Denmark 22-15 and 7-3 in regards to shots on target.
These two sides have met just three times, with two matches resulting in a scoreless draw with the most recent ending in a 3-1 Croatian victory in a friendly match back in 2015.
Given the history between these two sides, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a scoreless draw and possibly another penalty shootout for both sides to have to endure. However, I’m going to try my luck one more time and roll with the hosts. I was one of many doubters of Russia coming into this tournament, but everything just seems to be lining up for Russia. This team just has a certain magic and having the support of the fans at home is something to see. If I’m wrong then it’s been quite a run for Russia, but given how they performed under pressure against Spain, why not take a shot one more time on Russia.