The Fisht Stadium in Sochi has witnessed some of the most thrilling battles in the ongoing World Cup. The last one of the tournament it will host on Saturday – between Russia and Croatia – promises to be a gripping encounter as well, for both teams weren’t fancied to reach this far in the tournament. They will, hence, be desperate to get one more step closer to glory having reached thus far.
The hosts have done exceedingly well to get to their first World Cup quarter-final since 1970 (wherein Soviet Union lost 0-1 to Uruguay). And, buoyed by the home crowd, they can surprise the higher-ranked Croatia.
But the Croats are pumped up about the game as well. An estimated 10,000 fans will support captain Luka Modric’s side in Zagreb’s main square, where the World Cup matches are watched on a giant screen.
Head to head
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- 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, following goals by Fyodor Smolov, Nicola Kalinic, Marcelo Brozovic and Mario Mandzukic. Russia return to the quarter-finals for the first time since 1970, when the Soviet Union lost 1-0 to Uruguay.
- Croatia have not reached the last eight for 20 years, having gone all the way to the semi-finals in France 1998, their all-time best placing in the competition.
- Before the game against Spain, Russia had never experienced penalties in a World Cup. Playing as the Soviet Union, Russia lost two games after extra time, 1-0 against Uruguay in 1970 and 4-3 against Belgium in 1986.
- The match against Denmark was also Croatia’s first experience of a penalty shoot-out (and extra time) in the global showpiece.
- 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. The Balkan team have also scored in eight consecutive games, having last drawn a blank in the 0-0 draw with Japan in 2006.
- Croatia face the host team of a World Cup for the third time in five participations. On both previous occasions, the Vatreni were eliminated despite having taken the lead, losing 2-1 to France in the 1998 semi-finals and 3-1 to Brazil in the Opening Match in 2014.
- If Luka Modric plays this game, it will be his 10th World Cup appearance, making him the second-highest-ranked Croat in the event’s appearance ranking, one behind leader Dario Simic and just above Stipe Pletikosa and Mario Stanic who remain on nine.
Stats courtesy Fifa.com