World Cup Round-Up: 31/07/18

World Cup Round-Up: 31/07/18

Spain v Russia – 15:00

The hosts Russia face their toughest challenge yet when they take on Spain at the Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday. Fernando Hierro’s side come into this one after securing top spot in Group B over Portugal on goals scored, finishing on 5 points in their 3 matches. Despite the dismissal of Jullen Lopetgui just a day before the tournament began La Roja have recovered well and are on the favourable side of the draw so will be expected to be a major threat later on in the competition.

Last time out they had a disappointing 2-2 draw with Morocco in a game in which they were expected to win comfortably so will want to bounce back with a win here. A late injury time equaliser from Iago Aspas accompanied with Iran’s late equaliser against Portugal was enough for them to secure themselves as Group winners but the performance will still worry the new boss. Hierro is potentially going to opt for a 4231 formation rather than Spain’s traditional 433 to provide more stability after their poor defensive display against the African side and also help protect Sergio Busquets who’s just one booking away from suspension.

La Roja are still unbeaten since being knocked out by Italy in Euro 2016 so will be looking to continue that run here. The 2010 Champions are now the 2nd favourites for the tournament behind Brazil and are unbeaten in their last 6 matches against Russia so will be expected to win this one comfortably. Spain’s most impressive player in the tournament so far has undoubtedly been Isco. The Real Madrid playmaker got his first goal of the tournament last time out against Morocco and is at the forefront of everything that Spain do so expect him to continue that form here.

The hosts Russia were one of the most impressive teams in the tournament in their opening two matches. They dispatched Saudi Arabia (5-0) and Egypt (3-1) comfortably to secure themselves a place in the knockout stages and Stanislav Cherchesov will be hoping that they can get back to that form to give the home fans something to cheer.

Last time out against Uruguay the hosts were completely outclassed and were comfortably beaten 3-0 to lose out on top spot in Group A but made a number of changes to ensure they were prepared for the knockout stages including resting one of their star men of the tournament so far in Aleksandr Golovin. The Midfielder who got a goal and two assists in the opening game against Saudi Arabia will likely return after being rested for the game with Uruguay due to being a booking away from a suspension and will support Artem Dzubya.

Like they were against Uruguay the hosts aren’t expected to have enough against Spain on Sunday but will be hoping to cause a shock in front of the home crowd. The hosts will take confidence in the fact that they held Spain to a 3-3 draw in their friendly against them back in November so they know that they can match up with Spain but La Roja should win comfortably here. The Russians have kept just one clean sheet in their last 11 matches whilst Spain have scored at least twice in 9 of their last 11 World Cup matches so backing goals in this one would be a smart bet here.

Recommended Bets:

Isco to score anytime (19/10 with Ladbrokes) – BET HERE

Spain to win and over 2.5 goals (9/5 with Coral) – BET HERE

Croatia v Denmark – 19:00

Croatia are into the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time since their debut in the competition in 1998 and look set to make a major impact in this competition. The Croatians dominated Group D finishing on the maximum 9 points ahead of Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria. The victory over Argentina was their standout game of the tournament so far after second half goals from Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic were enough to see off Lionel Messi and co to near enough secure top spot in Group D before their final match with Iceland was even played. This allowed for manager Zlatko Dalic to rest a number of players with only Modric and Ivan Perisic risked in the Iceland game in which they ran out 2-1 winners to keep up their momentum.

The Croatians have found themselves on the favourable side of the draw and could be dark horses in what has been an unpredictable World Cup so far. Croatia’s likely route to the final will likely involve getting past Spain as well as Colombia or England to reach the final after this game with Denmark so will see this as one of their best chances of reaching the latter stages they could’ve possibly had and are ones to watch for the rest of the tournament.

The ‘Blazers’ have been one of the most impressive sides in the tournament so far and are expected that they continue that form here. Croatia have scored at least two goals in five of their last six World Cup matches so expect them to get even more goals here. Ivan Perisic got his first goal of the tournament with a stoppage time winner against Iceland last time out and is a constant threat so backing him to continue that from with a goal could be a smart bet here.

The Danes have reached the knockout stages for the fourth time in their last five World Cup appearances but have only made it past the last 16 once when they were knocked out by Brazil in 1998. Age Hareide’ side are incredibly difficult to beat however so they could be a threat in the knockout stages. Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel and Andreas Christensen lead a backline that has been so impressive so far in this tournament. In fact, the Danes have conceded just the one goal in Russia so far, a penalty from Mile Jedinak in the 1-1 draw with Australia so won’t make it easy for the Croatians to continue their goalscoring form in this one.

Attacking wise however they haven’t got out of first gear so far and took part in the only 0-0 of the tournament in their game with France to secure their place in the last 16. The Danes don’t really have an out an out goalscorer in their side which could become their major downfall when heading into the latter stages. They still have players that can hurt Croatia however, especially Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen. The Spurs man is the only Danish player to have more than a shot on target in the World Cup so far if Denmark are going to get anything out of this they’ll be looking to him to create something.

The only time these two have met in a major competition was in the Euro 96 group stage when Croatia came out 3-0 winners and despite the Danes’ tough defensive line Croatia should have too much quality for them again on Sunday. Six of the seven Croatian goals so far in the tournament so far have come in the Second Half so a strong showing for Croatia after the interval could be something to back here.

Recommended Bets:

Ivan Perisic to score first (6/1 with SkyBet) – BET HERE

Half Time/Full Time – Draw/Croatia (3/1 with Bet365) – BET HERE