Spain will look to end the dream of 2018 World Cup hosts Russia when the teams meet in a last 16 clash at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Sunday, July 1, kick-off at 16h00 CAT.
Spain endured a tough test through the course of Group B, drawing 3-3 with Portugal in their opening game, edging Iran 1-0 in their second, and finally holding Morocco 2-2 in their last game on Monday night.
That ‘La Furia Roja’ needed an injury-time goal from Iago Aspas to ensure they avoided defeat against the ‘Atlas Lions’ and secured top spot will be a major worry for coach Fernando Hierro, as will the fact that they conceded five goals through the group stage.
To that end, Spain will look to central defenders Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos to step up their game in the first third of the field, and also hope that forward Diego Costa recreates the bullying form he showed in scoring two goals against Portugal at the start of their campaign.
Russia enjoyed an incredible start to their first World Cup campaign on home soil, thrashing Saudi Arabia 5-0 and Egypt 3-1 in their first two games to secure qualification – a feat few pundits gave them hope of achieving before the tournament got underway.
However, ‘Sbornaya’ were brought back to earth somewhat in their final Group A game earlier this week, as they were handed a 3-0 beating by Uruguay. Still, the silver lining to that loss was the chance to play this game in the capital Moscow (instead of Sochi if they had topped the group) and have an extra day’s rest (Uruguay’s last 16 game is on Saturday).
Coach Stanislav Cherchesov will hope Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba can give his team forward impetus and trouble a Spain defence which has looked far short of it’s best, but it will be just as important that his midfielders such as Roman Zobnin and Yury Gazinsky gain a foothold in the match against pass-masters such as Andres Iniesta and David Silva.
Spain VS Russia
In head-to-head terms, Spain and Russia have met in 12 previous matches, according to FIFA’s statistics database. ‘La Furia Roja’ have claimed six wins compared to two for ‘Sbornaya’, while four games have been drawn.
This will be a first meeting in the World Cup, while the teams’ most recent game was in November last year in Saint Petersburg: it ended in a 3-3 draw after goals from Fyodor Smolov (two) and Aleksey Miranchuk for the hosts, as well as Jordi Alba and Sergio Ramos (two) for the 2010 world champions.
Russia will no doubt put up a fighting effort and the support of the Moscow crowd will spur them on, but Spain should have too much class for the tournament hosts and will be confident of advancing into the quarterfinals.
Spain v Russia – head-to-head
Matches played 12
Spain wins 6
Russia wins 2
Spain goals 18
Russia goals 11