World Cup

Russia v Croatia preview

Croatia stands in the way of hosts Russia and a place in the World Cup semi-final on Saturday, as they face off in Sochi.

Russia have the home advantage in Saturday’s quarter-final tie, with the nation still on a high following their dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Spain in the last 16.

Croatia, meanwhile, came through a shootout of their own, seeing off Denmark following a nervy 1-1 draw.

The hosts had never even got out of the group stage while known as Russia but did reach the last four in 1966 as Soviet Union, while Croatia finished third in 1998.

Russia head coach Stanislav Cherchesov has been typically calm in the build-up to the game and insists he is not getting distracted by the heightened attention on his side.

“As a coach, I am trying not to watch the TV, I don’t read papers, I am concentrating on my job. I believe that is the same for the players. I am trying not to get distracted. If I get a newspaper I will read a headline. Criticism is good but I believe we should have our eyes and ears open.

“We Russians like extremes so let’s not go to these extremes. I believe it should be constructive, analytical criticism. You say people are euphoric: we, the people in the team, are not the people who should be euphoric.”

Team news

Russia’s Yuri Zhirkov misses out with a calf problem, but Alan Dzagoev is back in contention after damaging his hamstring in the opening win over Saudi Arabia.

Ivan Strinic is expected to be available despite seemingly picking up an injury late in the win over Denmark, while Mateo Kovacic should also be fit following a shoulder issue.

Opta stats

Russia and Croatia have faced three times previously, with two of those ending goalless in qualifiers for Euro 2008; Croatia won the other meeting in November 2015, a 3-1 victory in a friendly.

Croatia have scored as many goals in four matches at this year’s World Cup (8) as they did in six games in their previous two World Cup appearances in 2006 and 2014 combined.

Russia had 10 shots on target in their first two 2018 World Cup games – they have managed just two in their last two matches, with one of those a penalty (Artem Dzyuba v Spain).

Ten of Croatia’s last 12 World Cup goals have come in the second halves of their games.

Mario Mandzukic scored his third World Cup goal for Croatia against Denmark in the last round – only Davor Suker (6) has scored more for them at the World Cup.




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