Russia Edge out Spain in the Round of 16
Host countries traditionally fare well at this tournament and despite entering the competition as the lowest-ranked side, Russia have managed to reach the last eight of the 2018 World Cup.
Stanislav Cherchesov’s side were drawn in Group A and began with a thumping 5-0 success against Saudi Arabia. They followed it up with a 3-1 victory over Egypt before crashing to a 3-0 defeat against group winners Uruguay. They were drawn against Spain in the round of 16 and weren’t expected to triumph against the 2010 winners.
Despite starting the game as 4/7 favourites, Spain never looked comfortable in Moscow but Sergei Ignashevich’s own goal gave them an early advantage. Artem Dzyuba kept his composure from the penalty spot to level matters just before half-time and Russia were able to keep their opponents at arm’s length for the majority of the second half.
Cherchesov opted for a back five which nullified Spain’s threat and denied them space in the final third. Spain commanded 75% possession but their tiki-taka approach began to frustrate their fans. There was very little urgency about La Roja and Russia were able to sit tight and await their opportunity.
Iago Aspas’ wayward penalty prompted mass celebrations inside the Luzhniki Stadium and in the surrounding areas. Igor Akinfeev was lauded as a national hero with fans toasting the veteran goalkeeper who helped them progress to the last eight for the first time in 48 years.
Fans spilt out onto the streets following the full-time whistle with celebrations continuing long into the night.
Russia will face Croatia in the quarter-finals on July 7th at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi and they’ve been priced up as the 3/1 outsiders with Bet365. Croatia are available at 5/4.
Russia’s Possible Path to the Final
Paddy Power make Russia 9/2 to reach the final of the 2018 World Cup and their side of the draw looks wide open.
Should Russia progress against Croatia, they will book their place in the final four. Sweden, Switzerland, Colombia or England await in the semi-final and Russia will be confident of beating any of those sides.
The other half of the draw looks significantly tougher with Uruguay, France, Brazil and Belgium all still in the competition.
Five-time winners Brazil remain 9/2 favourites for the title.