Moscow: The Day 2 of the pre-quarterfinals of FIFA World Cup 2018 will see two matches - Spain vs Russia and Croatia vs Denmark. While the first match scheduled for the day is between Group B winner Spain and Group A runner-up Russia, the second match will see an encounter between Group D winner Croatia and Group C runner-up Denmark.
Sunday, 1 July
Spain (Group B winner) vs Russia (Group A runner-up)
Venue: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Time: 7:30 pm
Croatia (Group D winner) vs Denmark (Group C runner-up)
Venue: Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod
Time: 11:30 pm
Considering their turbulent start to the tournament, Spain will be pleased to have safely negotiated the group phase, even if they are yet to click under interim head coach Fernando Hierro. The 2010 champions probably face their toughest test yet against Russia in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday. Spain played remarkably well in a 3-3 draw with European champions Portugal - just two days after Lopetegui's dismissal - and scraped to a 1-0 victory over Iran before a shaky 2-2 draw with Morocco.
Russia have been one of the surprise teams of the tournament. Ranked 70th in the world by FIFA, Stanislav Cherchesov's side won their opening match against Saudi Arabia 5-0 before disposing of Egypt 3-1 five days later. They thudded back to earth with a 0-3 loss to Uruguay in their final group match after Igor Smolnikov's 36th-minute red card.
On the other hand, in-form Croatia will be hot favourites against Denmark, who have looked lacklustre in the group stages, when the two sides clash in the pre-quarterfinal match later in the day. Croatia have won all their Group D matches, including a 3-0 hammering of Lionel Messi's Argentina. Led by Real Madrid's midfield lynchpin Luka Modric, Croatia also defeated Nigeria and Iceland to top Group D.
The pre-quarter-final will be played at the same venue where the Croats thumped Argentina. This time, Croatia have an experienced squad, a strong generation to at least match their best-ever finish of a third place which happened in 1998 World Cup.
(With inputs from IANS)