Croatia v Denmark preview
In-form Croatia take on unbeaten Denmark at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Sunday night with a place in the World Cup quarter-finals at stake.
Zlatko Dalic’s side surprised some by winning all three of their Group G games on their way to the last 16 at Russia 2018.
However, they will come up against a Denmark team who have also not lost a match so far at the tournament.
Denmark playmaker Christian Eriksen thinks Croatia will start as favourites though.
“It will bring together the whole country if we move on against Croatia,” the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder said.
“It will lift the national spirit in the country. Had we gone home after the group matches, it would have been a scandal.
“Croatia are perhaps small favourites if you look at the clubs where the players come from. But I think we can settle it within 90 minutes.”
Real Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovacic, however, has warned his team-mates they will need to keep a close eye on Eriksen on Sunday.
“Christian Eriksen is a great player,” he said. “He proved himself at Tottenham. We are aware of his quality – for example, he has an excellent shot. We must be very careful. But we stopped Lionel Messi in the game against Argentina, so we can do it again.
“We need to play a game of ball control. We do not think we are favourites in the game against Denmark. They have very good players and we are preparing for that game with maximum seriousness.
“It will be a tough match, like any other game so far. We played well, have had great victories, but if we do not win against Denmark, we did not do anything.”
Dalic is expected to recall all the big-name players who were rested for Tuesday’s 2-1 win against Iceland.
That means the likes of Ivan Rakitic, Dejan Lovren and Mario Mandzukic should feature.
Meanwhile, Denmark midfielder William Kvist may start, despite puncturing a lung and breaking two ribs in his country’s opening group-stage win over Peru.
And Yussuf Poulsen is also back having completed a one-game suspension.
- Croatia and Denmark will be meeting for the sixth time. Their head to head record is perfectly balanced with two wins each and one draw
- The only previous encounter between Croatia and Denmark in a major tournament was at Euro 1996. Croatia won 3-0 in the group stages thanks to goals by Davor Suker (2) and Zvonimir Boban (1)
- Croatia have reached the knockout stages of the World Cup for only the second time after 1998. They finished third that year, their best ever performance at a major tournament
- Croatia have won all three of their games so far at the 2018 World Cup, which is their longest ever streak of victories in the competition. They’ve also conceded only one goal in those three games, it came from the penalty spot against Iceland
- Six of Croatia’s seven goals at this year’s World Cup have been scored in the second-half. Also, five of their last six shots on target have found the back of the net
- Denmark have reached the knockout stages for the fourth time in five appearances after 1986, 1998 and 2002. However, they have gone past the round of 16 only once previously, back in 1998 when they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Brazil