Russians are enjoying a romantic summer with their national team reaching the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup where they will now face Croatia for a spot in the semifinals.
The hosts are expected to make a couple of changes from their exuberant win over Spain in the Round of 16. Stanislav Cherchesov, the Russian manager, will have realized his players will be fatigued from their exertions against Spain over the course of 120 minutes. But he’ll bet on the occasion carrying them through against Croatia.
The men to watch out for will no doubt be the livewire Aleksandr Golovin and striker Artem Dzyuba. The former has scored one goal and made two assists in his team’s adventures while the latter has accounted for three goals so far, including the equaliser against Spain.
Yuri Zhirkov is facing a battle to be fit and Sergey Ignashevich and Ilya Kutepov will be the key figures in defence. Denis Cheryshev and the ilk of Fedor Smolov and Alan Dzagoev are expected to be involved as well. The hero of the shoot-out against Spain, Igor Akinfeev, will urge his team to maintain a strict defensive shape.
An important factor to note was that all of the Russian penalties were spot on, meaning this side is prepared for the eventuality of a penalty shootout.
Croatia, meanwhile, came through a tricky tie after narrowly sending Denmark back home with a nervous penalty shoot-out win.
Luka Modric will captain the side with Ivan Rakitic dictating play in the middle of the park beside him. Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic and Ante Rebic are expected to lead the line in attack. Coach Zlatko Dalic will impress upon his side the necessity to maintain shape and not concede silly goals like they did early on against the Danes.
The back four will be expected to remain constant with another penalty hero in Danijel Subasic starting between the sticks, behind Dejan Lovren and Vida.
Croatia will consider themselves the favourites to progress.
But, with a chance now visibly within sight to bring the hallowed cup home, the home side and their legion of fans will look to pull off another upset to make this the definitive Russian summer.
However, the Vatreni will have their own ideas in mind as they seek to deliver their own version of a blissful summer in Russia.
Kick-off is at 10:00 PM MST, Nizhny Novgorod.