Today at the World Cup: Sunday, July 1
Host nation Russia in action against Spain, before Croatia and Denmark go head to head
Last Updated: 01/07/18 2:37pm
The knockout stages of the World Cup continue on Sunday with two crunch last-16 encounters.
Each morning during the tournament we will bring you an overview of what is coming up...
Who's playing today?
Spain v Russia (Last 16) - Moscow, 3pm
Croatia v Denmark (Last 16) - Nizhny Novgorod, 7pm
What's the deal?
Russia came into the tournament with low expectations and some bemoaning the team as the poorest in living memory. But handsome wins over Saudi Arabia and Egypt booked a quickfire last-16 spot and raised hopes that the hosts could actually achieve something special at their own World Cup. However, a convincing 3-0 defeat to Uruguay suggests Russia are unlikely to be a match for Spain. If they do go out, though, at least the Russians can take satisfaction from putting on a tournament to remember.
As for Spain, at times in their opening 3-3 draw with Portugal, Fernando Hierro's side were mesmeric - moving the ball in a way Sir Alex Ferguson once described as like being "on a carousel" that makes opponents dizzy. The Barcelona model was there in all its glory, with Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Koke and Isco manipulating the ball effortlessly and Diego Costa providing a genuine goal threat in front of them. But subsequent displays against Iran and Morocco have put a question mark against their bid to repeat their 2010 World Cup triumph.
Meanwhile, Croatia's case as dark horses to win the World Cup is mostly down to the creativity of their two midfield masters, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. The pair are good enough to excel at Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively and can dictate the tempo of a game against the best opposition. Coming up against Denmark pitches them against Christian Eriksen.
Ones to watch...
David de Gea: One of the biggest surprises of the tournament has been the dismal form of Spain goalkeeper David de Gea. There are doubts in Spain over his place in the team as they prepare for their knockout clash with Russia, which will leave many Manchester United fans open-mouthed. De Gea made a mistake to allow Cristiano Ronaldo to score in Spain's opening 3-3 draw with Portugal, and has been criticised for his claiming of crosses and distribution in the 2-2 draw with Morocco in Spain's final group game. The Manchester United goalkeeper has been at the top of his game domestically for the last five years and owes his country a performance after a sloppy start. A clean sheet would go a long way to repairing that relationship.
Aleksandr Golovin: Sky sources revealed earlier this week that Chelsea are interested in signing the CSKA Moscow midfielder and his talents will be tested against the Spanish midfield. Golovin has impressed for World Cup hosts Russia this summer, including scoring in the tournament's curtain-raiser victory over Saudi Arabia to help them progress past the group stages. CSKA are believed to want €25 million for their man and a strong performance on Sunday might just help persuade the west Londoners to stump up the cash.
Christian Eriksen: The Tottenham playmaker will be the man tasked with leading the Denmark charge against Croatia. He was key in their win against Peru, setting off the move that saw Yussuf Poulsen score the winner and nabbing an assist for his efforts. He then conjured up a moment of magic to hammer home a half-volley against Australia, scoring one of the goals of the tournament. His match-up with Luka Modric in the heart of the midfield will be worth keeping an eye on.
Also look out for...
Like father, like son
Continual comparisons with his father are proving exasperating for Denmark 'keeper Kasper Schmeichel at this World Cup, where the Leicester City shot-stopper had a playful dig at reporters after first taking to social media to hint at his frustration.
The 31-year-old, whose father, Peter, helped Denmark win Euro 92 and is regarded among the goalkeeping greats, posted a picture of himself on Instagram, looking stern and somewhat annoyed, with a caption that read: "Your face when you get asked about your dad for the fourth time in a row at a World Cup press conference."
Asked about the post, Schmeichel Jr said of the repeated questions about his famous father: "It's not annoying, it's just I expect more from you guys.
"Obviously, it's inevitable coming to the World Cup, those media who haven't spoken to me will ask, but the Danish lads know what the response will be."
Let's see if all that talk affects the Dane in Nizhny Novgorod tonight...
Will he, won't be?
England's wait to find out whether Colombia star James Rodriguez will be lining up against them in Moscow on Tuesday looks as if it will continue until the team sheets are handed in. The 2014 World Cup's Golden Boot winner lasted just half-an-hour of Colombia's crucial group win against Senegal on Thursday. The Colombian camp continued to give nothing away over Rodriguez's fitness at a press conference on Saturday, keeping England in the dark as to whether the Bayern Munich loanee will make the last 16 clash.
Stat of the day
Spain are unbeaten in their last 23 games (W15 D8), the longest current run amongst the 32 teams at the 2018 World Cup. Their last defeat came two years ago against Italy in the round of 16 of the European Championships (0-2, June 2016)
On this day
Some own goals are farcical and one of those came on July 1, 2015 at the Women's World Cup Finals played in Canada. In the 92nd minute of the semi-final between England and Japan, the Lionesses' Laura Bassett scored an own goal which gave holders Japan a place in the final. To be fair though she had the courage (and skill) to make the interception and that ball could have gone anywhere - but sadly it went into the net.
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