Host nation Russia are still on a high after eliminating Spain in a penalty shootout. The result was a shock that left many analysts and fans alike scratching their heads and searching for answers. The explanation is simple: once they were able to equalize in the 41st minute, Russia employed compact defensive tactics and completely 'parked the bus'. The numbers tell the story: Spain enjoyed a possession advantage of 73%-27% 25 attempts on goal to 3. The Russians were the far more physical side, amassing 17 fouls to Spain's 4. Will Russia be so tactically shrewd against Croatia, or will they attempt to play with more ambition offensively? Leading the Russian attack is Artem Dzyuba up front and Denis Cheryshev in the midfield. Look for the two of them to combine and try and pry open the Croatian defence. For all of Russia's success this tournament, their main goal-scoring threat, Fedor Smolov has been found wanting, if Smolov can find the back of the net, Russian fortunes will be greatly improved.
For Croatia, possession in midfield is the name of the game. Talent wise, Russia do not have anyone who can match Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. Look for both players to create scoring chances and play with a faster pace than they showed versus Denmark. Mario Mandzukic scored a 4th minute equalizer against the Danes, but the forward line did not offer much more going forward for the rest of the match. Ivan Perisic will offer Croatia another option offensively.
This match will be decided by which team's style can win out: Russia's tactical defence or Croatia's possession and creativity.
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