Who? Croatia - Denmark
Where? Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod
When? July 1, 20:00 (CET local time)
Croatia (Eden Roitfarb)
The night and the stadium where The Vatreni have captured everyone’s hearts this summer was in Nizhny Novogrod – after beating Argentina 3-0. Today, Croatia return to the town that is located 5 hours east from Moscow, this time to face Denmark in the round of 16. During the group stage, the Nizhny Novogrod stadium had the highest average of goals with 3.75 scored per game – a fact that would open our appetite for some entertaining football on Sunday.
The Croatians come after a 2-1 win over Iceland in a match that did not matter too much for them, besides keeping a fair play spirit and sportsmanship. The fight for second place was very dependent on the score, but Croatia played some of its main players and fought to win. Milan Badelij, who received the chance to start, repaid coach Zlatko Dalic’s faith with a goal and an assist. After finishing first in the group, Croatia find themselves in what is considered the more “comfortable” path to the finals. Many pundits name Spain as the only major powerhouse in this half of the bracket, but the Croatians would fancy their chances to achieve something unimaginable this summer – perhaps even topping their Bronze medal glory from France 1998.
But first, a very tough Danish team are waiting, and they are hungry for success as well. The two teams participate in big tournaments fairly regularly but have only met previously in Euro 1996, in a game that takes back Croatian fans for a trip down memory lane. Davor Šuker scored twice in a 3-0 win, while his second goal was a magical chip over Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel. 22 years later, Peter’s son Kasper is in goal for Denmark – and he will need to stop Croatia from creating another iconic and memorable moment.
Denmark (Yossi Medina)
Just like Croatia, so does Denmark dream of a first quarter-final appearance since 1998. With their talented squad and strong play that they perform in the group stage, Denmark wants to make the match harder for the Croatians.
During the group stage we saw one of the greatest Danish players nowadays, Christian Eriksen score and bring glory for Denmark. As a Tottenham player, Eriksen can get some inspiration from Luka Modrić, who also played for Spurs until he signed for Real Madrid while he was 26 years old. Eriksen is in the same age today, maybe he can dream on a new adventure on the future.
Denmark almost didn't reach the knockout stage in a major tournament since 1998. Their win against Nigeria at the round of 16 in that World Cup was their last knockout win and since than they lost three times in knockout matches, against Brazil in 1998, against England in 2002 and against Czech Republic in 2004. After 14 years of being eliminated in the group stage or even not qualifying at all, Denmark have the chance to make a great achievemtn.
Åge Hareide and his players are ready to make history. Croatia is the clear favorite, but if Denmark will keep their defensive style and their tough work, they can upset and make the game much more interesting.