Spain vs Russia Preview: Can the hosts go past a star-studded La Roja?
Written by: Rohan Philip
The hosts looked confident until they met a Luis Suarez-led Uruguay, but they still can't be counted out, as the La Roja are in the midst of a tactical crisis.
Spain will take on the hosts, Russia in their first knockout game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup on the 1st of July following their progression from their respective groups. Spain finished top of Group B, ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, while Russia finished second to Uruguay in Group A.
About the Teams:
Russia came into the tournament as the target of a lot of criticism from the fans and pundits alike, having failed to register a win in their previous 7 outings. However, this record was quickly set right when the hosts thrashed Saudi Arabia by five goals to nil in the opening game of the quadrennial competition, with a substitute, Dennis Cheryshev scoring two goals.
Russia went on to beat Egypt by three goals to one but would lose to Uruguay in their final fixture. Russia will look at that particular game as a wake-up call over the condition of their aging backline, a fact that the near irresistible Spanish attack is sure to cherish. However, the Russians do not to have any issues with the attacking parts of their team, with Dennis Cheryshev, Artem Dyzuba and Aleksandr Golovin looking in dangerous touch going into the game.
Spain came into the tournament in the most tumultuous of fashions, with Julen Lopetuegui being relived of his duties a mere 24 hours before the start of the tournament following the announcement that he would be taking over the reigns at Real Madrid. His successor, Fernando Hierro managed to get his team out of the group but has shown signs that he is still getting to know his team.
The football that the Spaniards have played so far in the tournament has ranged from irresistible all the way to downright inexplicable. Experienced heads in defence like Sergio Ramos, David De Gea and Gerard Pique have slipped up on multiple occasions so far in the tournament and will have to get their act together in time for the knockout stages.
Spain do look a threat further up the pitch, with Diego Costa having scored thrice already in the World Cup so far, with two of those goals coming in the three all draw with Portugal. Andres Iniesta and Isco have combined well at times and Iago Aspas adds a different dimension coming off the bench.
The match will be played in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, the site of the 2008 Champions League final.
David De Gea; Dani Carvajal, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Koke, Andres Iniesta, Isco; Diego Costa, Vasquez.
Igor Akinfeev; Mario Fernandes, Ilya Kutepov, Sergey Ignashevich, Yuri Zhirkov; Roman Zobnin, Daler Kuzyaev; Aleksandr Samedov, Aleksandr Golovin, Denis Cheryshev; Artem Dzyuba
What to expect:
Spain will be concerned that they have only won one of their three group games, despite finishing top of the group and will look to continue their run of 23 unbeaten games against Russia.
On the other hand, the Russians will look at potential Spanish defensive errors as their potential chance at stealing an unprecedented victory.
Neither of the teams are plagued by injury concerns and will be able to table full strength squads when they meet. The stage is all set for Spain to grow into the tournament, peaking at the right instant, as they did in 2010 but it is not out of the realms of possibility for it to be a famous Russian victory in Moscow.
Khel Now Prediction:
Spain 3 -1 Russia
Published: Sat Jun 30, 2018 08:13 PM IST