This world cup has been a pretty interesting one so far considering that the big teams like Argentina, Portugal and defending champions Germany have all exited the tournament.
Though some of the G.O.A.Ts like Cristiano Ronaldo, Thomas Mueller and Lionel Messi have exited the tournament we still have some players to look forward to.
Keeping that in mind, we have compiled a who’s who of players to watch out for in the 2nd day of the quarter-finals. You can read the 1st part here. So, without further ado here’s the preview.
The first match of the day:
Sweden vs England (Samara Arena)
This is the 24th meeting between the two sides, who have an even head-to-head record with seven wins apiece and nine draws. The last time they met in 2012, Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted four goals for Sweden.
Sweden have proved it possible that they can advance without Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the World Cup as they have qualified for the first time since 1994. Wile their performance hasn’t been that much sensational or awe-inspiring they have proved their mettle and have shown that they can hold their ground. Their captain Andreas Granqvist so far has been their best weapon.
England return to the quarter-finals of a World Cup after losing to a penalty-shootout to Portugal in 2006. They broke their curse of penalties when their goalkeeper Jordan Pickford lead them to the quarter-finals by saving Colombia’s penalty shots. Their captain, Harry Kane has been in tremendous form and is in contention for the Golden Boot award with six goals to his name. Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard have also proved their mettle on the field considering that it is their first World Cup. This squad of youngsters and newcomers is also considered as a ‘dark horse’ like the other favourite, Belgium.
Predictions: I have to go with England on this as they have the better squad on paper and is most likely to stop the Swedes on their track considering they don’t give any openings to Sweden.
Russia vs Croatia (Fisht Stadium)
Russia return to the quarter-finals for the first time since 1970, when the Soviet Union lost 1-0 to Uruguay whereas Croatia have not reached the last eight for 20 years.
This is the fourth meeting between the pair, who fought out two 0-0 draws in qualifying for the UEFA European Championship 2008, before Croatia earned a 3-1 friendly win in Rostov-on-Don in November 2015.
The Croats are on a four-match unbeaten run in the World Cup, their longest in the competition, consisting of three wins and a draw.
For the hosts Russia, Fyodor Smolov and Denis Cheryshev can be their trump cards as they can likely pose a threat to the Croatian defence. Their exceptional performance in the World Cup has been admired by many. However, Croatia’s Danijel Subasic is a force to be reckoned with as his saves in the penalty-shootout against Denmark was crucial in helping them advance to the quarter-finals. Likewise, Russia’s veteran goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev won hearts when he double-saved the penalties of Spain’s Andres Iniesta and Iago Aspas in their round-of-16 match.
Croatia have displayed a dominant performance in this World Cup. They remained unbeaten in their group stage matches and their 3-0 thrashing of Argentina awed spectators all over the world. With a mid-field that comprises of Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic, Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic along with Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic and Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic on the front they pose a threat to any opponent defences. However, what they lack in the defence department they can make it up with Danijel Subasic in the net.
I would say that Croatia slightly edges over Russia given their dominant performance in the tournament and also they have a better-balanced side. However, Russia can also pull a miracle given that they are the host nation and will obviously have the home team advantage.