By Antony Jordan
The knockout stages of the World Cup continue this Sunday with the third and fourth matches from the last 16 stage. Although the odds suggest two certain winners will Spain and Croatia be able to easily see off Russia and Denmark with their home advantage and their key man of Christian Eriksen?
We preview both games with online sportsbook Intertops.eu to bring you our best World Cup Picks.
The three meeting between these sides over the last decade have produced a trio of thrilling matches that culminated with a 3-3 friendly draw between the sides last November where Spain. The previous two meetings came at Euro 2008 where Spain triumphed 4-1 in the group stages and 3-0 in the Semi Finals and the champions in that tournament will be looking to secure another victory similar to that in this match.
Spain topped Group B ahead of Portugal despite conceding three to Cristiano Ronaldo in their opening match in Russia with the Real Madrid man netting late on to grab a point for the current European champions. Spain did not exactly bounce back well from the result either as they struggled past Iran 1-0 and then drew 2-2 with Morocco in their final game as they failed to live up to the quality they have on display. They have had a troubled competition from the start following the sacking of Julen Lopetegui the day before the World Cup began and things will not get easier for them in this match.
Russia may have impressed in their opening two matches as they bagged eight goals in the 5-0 and 3-1 thumpings of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but as soon as they rested some players and came up against a decent side in Uruguay they were dispatched easily. They lost that final group game 3-0 and never really looked like challenging the South Americans, but with Spain having struggled in all three matches in their group this game could see the host nation upset the odds. We are not confident in that as Spain should still have too much class for Russia, but we do see the Russians pushing them all the way at the Stadion Luzhniki in the capital city.
The Stadion Nizhny Novgorod hosts the first meeting of these two sides in 14 years since Croatia secured a 2-1 friendly victory in Copenhagen and they’ll be looking for another victory to add to their record this Sunday. They are favoured by Intertops to secure a win in 90 minutes and progress to the Quarter Final stage thanks to being one of just three sides to win all three group games – with Uruguay and Belgium joining them. Croatia had two hard fought battles against Nigeria and Iceland which brought out their toughness as they triumphed 2-0 and 2-1 respectively either side of their most impressive 3-0 victory over Argentina that displayed their excellent creatively and attacking ability.
Croatia have one of the best midfields in the tournament and they will aim to use Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić to run riot against the Danes. Denmark may come into this last 16 stage unbeaten, but a narrow win over Peru and draws with Australia and a France side resting players while scoring a total of two goals does not make them favoured to win this match in our eyes. They do have Christian Eriksen to link the midfield and attackers together and he will certainly be a threat in this match, but we feel that Croatia are the better side overall and they are the deserved favourites to win this match – and we’re backing Intertops’ thoughts on the game.