Russia vs Spain
Russia looked so good after the first two rounds that many people on social media started to question whether the players were involved in a state-sponsored doping scandal. But it might have just been a case of playing inferior opposition teams as they were brought back to the ground by a 3-0 humbling against. There are inherent weaknesses in Russian defence, with one of their centre-backs Sergei Ignashevich, nearing 39. The suspension of their right back Smolnikov for the Spain fixture, after getting a red-card, is also a matter of concern.
To judge Spain's performance in this World Cup has been a difficult task. There are times when they do look like the best team in the world cup, but there are other times in which we are reminded of their horrendous performance in the 2014 world cup. The defence has been an area of concern, with De-Gea and Ramos being guilty of conceding unnecessary goals. Pique too has looked a shadow of his former self. Spain has conceded 5 goals in the 3 matches played in 2018 world cup, whereas in the whole of qualifying campaign they conceded just 3. On the flip side, Spain's offence has looked awesome. Isco is certainly in contention for the player of the tournament, if Spain go through and Diego Costa has adjusted wonderfully to a team that doesn't necessarily suit his style of play. Iniesta still has the ability to make scintillating passes and with enough bench strength, the solidity of the midfield cannot be questioned. Even so, it can be said that Spain has been at the Mercy of the VAR this tournament. In the match against Iran the use of VAR denied Iran the equalizer and in the Morocco matchup, Spain was able to score the equalizer in extra time owing to the use of the technology.
Spain vs Russia match should be a goal-fest with both teams lacking in defensive abilities. Spain, as always, will try to pass the ball in the opposition's half and build pressure. Russia, on the other hand, will try to use their pace on the counter-attack. In the end, it will come down to the fact that which team would take their chances better. If Spain can hold their nerve against a partisan crowd, they should go through. But the chances of an upset are huge if the Russians could take the lead in this match
Croatia vs Denmark
Croatia has been the team of this tournament thus far. Not many expected them to even go through their group. But, they surely proved their critiques wrong by winning all their matches, the most extraordinary of which was the 3-0 win against Argentine. Modric and Rakitic have been superb in controlling the midfield and defensively they been solid. Mandzukic and Perisic have been excellent up-front. They also have excellent bench strength as shown in their 2-1 win against Iceland, a game in which they made 9 changes from the team that defeated Argentina.
Denmark’s performance in this world cup has been good. They started with a solid performance against Peru but lost their lead in the match against Australia and had to settle for a draw. The match against France should have offered an insight to the strength of the team, but the two teams decided to play out a boring 0-0 draw as it was a mutually beneficial result.
Croatia should easily come through this match. They are superior to Denmark in defence, midfield and attack. Their key players except Luka Modric would be well rested and raring to go. Denmark will rely a lot on their talisman, Christian Eriksen, to match the mighty Croatians in the midfield. The Danes will have to play the match of their lives to get through this one.