The World Cup quarter-finals conclude on Saturday evening as hosts Russia do battle with dark horses Croatia at the Fischt Stadium.
Both teams coming into the clash having required a penalty shoot-out to book their respective places in the last-eight. Croatia edged past Denmark following a 1-1 draw in extra-time, whilst Russia ousted Spain as they too earned a hard fought 1-1 draw over 120 minutes. Odds can be found of 8/1 with Coral for either side to progress via another penalty shootout.
Zlatko Dalić’s men have been one of the most impressive teams during the tournament so far. Currently undefeated, they have earned wins over Nigeria, Iceland, Denmark and a highly-impressive 3-0 thrashing if Argentina in the group stages. As a result, they are indeed the favourites to qualify for the semi-finals for only the second time in their history, with William Hill backing them at 8/15
Meanwhile, it is fair to say that the Russians have their home crowd behind them, and have surprised most by reaching the quarter-finals. The only blot on their impressive copy book is their 3-0 defeat to Uruguay. Although, they have also managed to earn wins over Saudi Arabia, Egypt and former world champions, Spain. The hosts can be backed at 11/8 with William Hill to reach the semi-finals
Surprisingly, Russian forward Fedor Smolov is the favourite to open the scoring in the match, with odds available of 5/1 with Betfair
for the Krasnodar striker to score the first goal of the match and his first of the tournament. The Russian’s current top-scorer Artem Dzyuba also sits at 5/1 with Betfair
. Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic is the one to watch for the Croatians and is the most likely to score the first goal with again odds of 5/1 with Coral
available for the frontman.
Both teams have injury worries heading into the game. Ivan Strinic and Mateo Kovacic are doubtful for Croatia, whilst Yuri Zhirkov will be subjected to a late fitness test for the home side due to a calf injury.
The match between the two sides represents only their fourth-ever meeting, and their first in the World Cup. The last match between the two was a friendly in 2015, in which Croatia won 3-1. The only competitive meetings pitted the two together in Euro qualification in 2006 and 2007. Both games ended 0-0. Paddy Power offer odds of 11/2
of that score being repeated again. On the other hand, Betfred are offering odds of 4/1 for there to be over 3.5 goals
throughout the game.