Who? Spain - Russia
Where? Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
When? July 1, 16:00 (CET local time)
Spain (Yossi Medina)
The future of Spain national team looked a bit uncertain only a few years ago. With a coach that was appointed only two days before the World Cup, nobody thought that Spain will impress in this tournament. Even though they almost didn't face a real opponent in the group stage, Spain maintained its place as one of the favourites and qualified from the top spot.
Now they will play against Russia, who showed already a great performance but failed against a stronger team like Uruguay. Russia has the support as host nation and Spain knows well what it means to play as an away team in the World Cup. In 2002, they faced South Korea and couldn't handle the combination of good opponent, home crowd and of course some controversies with some of the referee's decisions.
In the game against Morocco, we saw an interesting scorer. Two years ago, Iago Aspas wasn't even considered as part from the national squad. He made his debut in a friendly match in November 2016 and since then made just 12 caps. Yet, his scoring record in the team is amazing, as he scored 6 goals. At the age of 30, Aspas became an important part from the Spanish team.
With so much hopes and dreams, Spain will need to defeat Russia if they want to fulfill them. It wouldn't be easy in Luzhniki, but Spain showed more than once that they can do it everywhere.
Russia (Eden Roitfarb)
On Sunday 17:00 Moscow time, the Russian national team would take the role as David and will face Goliath – also known as La Roja, the Spanish Selección. Speaking of David, the last game Russia played in the knockout stage in a big tournament was the semifinals of Euro 2008 against non-other than Spain – as young midfielder David Silva scored the last goal in an emphatic 3-0 victory. Earlier in that tournament, both teams faced off once more in the group stage and David Villa scored a hattrick on route to a 4-1 win. Ironically, that was still the best side produced by Russian football for a long time, and success has eluded them since.
Back to today, the Russian public feels that advancing to the round of 16 is considered a big achievement as there were almost zero expectations from this squad. 2 from 2 to start the tournament while scoring 8 goals were enough to change the mood of the hosting nation, but Uruguay brought everyone back to earth after easily beating The Golden Eagles 3-0. In this game, Stanislav Cherchesov made a few changes to his starting lineup, but everything went wrong with a Denis Cheryshev own goal and Igor Smolnikov’s dismissal.
Shifting back to optimism, the matchup against Spain will take place in the Luzhniki stadium – where the World Cup opener and 5-0 drubbing of Saudi Arabia took place. 3 other games took place in the venue and only 2 goals were scored. Russia would definitely look to close down the Spanish midfield, which consists old fellow David Silva, and keep a closed and close game while trying to surprise on the counter attack. Then, maybe then, Russia can beat Spain in their home court – just like David overtook Goliath in the biblical myth story.