Russia vs Spain
Luzhniki Stadium/ Moscow
11 AM ET, July 1, 2018, Sunday
Line: Russia +480 Spain -167
FREE FIFA World Cup pick Russia vs Spain
The Luzhniki awaits. After four games during the group phase, the grand stadium will serve up an amuse-bouche round of 16 tie between the hosts Russia and Spain. Not much was expected from the host nation at this year’s World Cup, but two impressive routs of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, allowed the Russians to cruise into the knockout round. Though they lost their final match to Uruguay in Group A action, they still enter the round of 16 riding a wave of confidence given the form of their offense and with thousands of fans cheering them on, it’s always tough to write-off a host country at a World Cup. Mighty Russians have a feeling that they can reach the last eight but will require a valiant performance against the pass masters- Spain. Russia has built a high octane defense and were solely depending on their defensive stability before this World Cup but their attacking audacity has sprung with surprise. Mario Fernandes and Ilya Kutepov have influenced the Russian defence with their optimistic performances. Aleksandr Golovin and Denis Cheryshev have caused a storm at this World Cup with their overwhelming displays and are the backbone of the Russian midfield. Ever since striker Artem Dzyuba was promoted over Fydor Smolov, he has galvanized many with his awe-spiring performances. The concern for Russia is their defence; the defence is highly prone to lapses in concentration and giving away cheap goals. Russia will require a strong performance from the influential Aleksandr Golovin as well as captain and goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev – but they are players who are for the big occasion and it does not get much bigger for Russia at this moment in time. If Russia start well, set the tone and even find an early goal, there will be the increasing possibility of another host nation having a prolonged run at this competition.
Spain of course endured a ton of pre-tournament turmoil within their camp as they relieved their coach of his duties hours before their first match, and turned to Fernando Hierro to fill-in on short notice. And though Spain was pegged by many to be a legitimate pre-tournament threat to win the trophy, their group stage matches didn’t inspire much confidence. A narrow win over Iran and two draws against Morocco and Portugal got them through in first place, and La Roja knows that if they want to defeat the Russians on home soil, it will require their top effort. Spain do not have a particularly strong record when facing host nations. Their loss record is 100%, which is not something to be proud of. Fernando Hierro has insisted records are meant to be broken as they tighten up for a fitting encounter against Russia. For this particular test, the defensive problems within Hierro’s side are a major concern considering they are locking horns against one of the highest goal scoring nations at this tournament. For all of the concerns following Spain’s recent form entering this crucial match, the play out in the midfield has still been stellar. Where there has been a weakness has been with Manchester United’s David de Gea in goal. The usually talented keeper has made a few gaffes that have made matches closer than they should be. Spain have class, seniority, inventiveness in midfield with Andres Iniesta, Isco, David Silva serving as creators to fearsome Diego Costa. It is often said the match is contested in the middle of the park and the team with better midfield wins the match, Spain boasts an all-star midfield and if they take matter in their own hands Russia will be in some big trouble. Spain’s short passing and possession based approach can take over the match and leave Russia dozing at the pitch. There is just too much disparity in overall quality to consider anything but Spain here. This is a veteran-laden group with all kinds of big-game experience and they can break a million Russian hearts on Sunday.
The Goal Poacher:
Russia: Artem Dzyuba. Dzyuba has been blissful with his displays. He is staunch believer in himself and gallops high on confidence coming into this match. He can run down the Spain defence and cause a lot of trouble with his dominant nature in the air. If Russia are to score, a lot will rely on the heroics of Dzyuba.
Spain: Diego Costa. Costa has been ecstatic. Diego Costa has been an absolute beast. His speed and physicality is unmatched and caused big problems for every back-line so far. Against Russia that theme will continue, as their defensive corps is too old and too slow to contain him effectively.
Russia: Denis Cheryshev. Cheryshev has garnered some attention with his blazing displays against Saudi Arabia and Egypt. He remains vital to how Russia will shape up in attack. He along with Golovin are the brains behind Russian attack, he is formidable in front of goal and is known for scoring a few screamers.
Spian: Isco Alarcon. Isco has been magnanimous, altruistic and fabulous. He is blessed with deft footwork and an artistic mind. Isco remains a goal threat himself and has capabilities of feeding defence splitting passes to Costa. He along with David Silva and Andres Iniesta are one of the most petrifying midfield trio’s in the tournament.
The Young Gun:
Russia: Aleksandr Golovin. Golovin has earned the reputation of a match winner and has alarmed big clubs in Europe with his talent. He is creative, concise and sticks to the basics. Golovin has the responsibility to carry the ball from midfield to attacking positions. If Russia are to win, they will need a near perfect performance from Golovin.
Spain: Marco Asensio. Asensio is destined to start from the bench but can come on as a sub and if circumstances demand he can prove to be the match winner. He is an able contributor from the flank as well as the middle of the park.
The Driving Spirit:
Russia: The hosts will be backed by thousands of Russians in the stadium and will encourage their team every moment. The electrifying atmosphere can be a huge influencer in the game; it could well be a mismatch of numbers as 80,000 Russians will be up against 11 Spaniards.
Spain: Spain despite being a prime footballing nation have just one title under their belt. They always start as one of the favorites but crash out due to one lackluster performance. This time though they have an easier route and can make it to the finals if they improve efficiently. The outside dressing room mayhem of sacking the coach was devastating and if Spain comeback from this chaos and win the World Cup, they will be remembered for generations to come.
FREE FIFA World Cup pick Spain vs Russia
Spain will dominate the possession for large spells of the match, but it’s obvious that under new management, Fernando Hierro, they aren’t completely comfortably defensively, or when they’re defending under fast transitions. The Russians should trouble Spain numerous times in the 90 minutes, with their trickery and speed on the break. Spain cannot afford any individual errors at the back, but you would trust the experienced players to raise the level of their game in the World Cup knockouts stage. Spain are backed by the pundits and have greater odds than Russia, now is the time to show their ‘A’ game and secure victory against sturdy Russia.