FIFA 2018 World Cup: Croatia vs Russia, Combined XI
FIFA 2018 World Cup: Croatia vs Russia, Combined XI
Ranked lowest at the beginning and not touted to even progress from the group, Russia (500/1 pre-tournament outsiders) have surpassed all expectations by making it thus far. The icing on the cake was the ouster of Spain that they managed to pull off in the shootouts after incredibly holding them to a draw. In what has been a tournament of massive upsets, the hosts are now gunning to make it to the last 4, another feat they’ve never achieved before.
But the Blazers (75/1 outsiders) are scripting a story of their own. Their run up to a first quarter-final in 20 years is nothing short of impressive, most famously battering Argentina in a group game. Croatia have every reason to believe they can make it to the last 4.
With no clear favourites, Russia vs Croatia promises to be as interesting duel as any other matchup we have in the last 8.
Here’s how they would stack up in a combined XI:
Goalkeeper: Danijel Subasic
Igor Akinfeev has been incredible in between the sticks for Russia, but Subasic stole the limelight after the round of 16 for his heroics in the shootout victory. The Croatian shotstopper made three saves to knock Denmark out – just the second such feat in World Cup history, and also has 2 clean sheets to his name in 3 appearances. He also has an 87.5% save rate as compared to the 74% his Russian counterpart boasts.
Right-back: Manuel Fernandes
The Brazil-born defender only switched nationality last year before been handed his first international cap in a friendly against South Korea last November. Now in the World Cups, Fernandes has been a mainstay in the right wingback position and quietly gone about his business. He has a big role to play in the cleansheets earlier in the campaign whilst also blocking passing channels down the flanks against Spain. He averages 3.8 clearances per game and also assisted Cheryshev in the 3-1 win over Egypt.
Centre-back: Sergei Ignashevich
Ignashevich has been a rock at the back for the hosts with great positional awareness and his physicality in the box. He averages a mind-boggling 7.8 clearances per game, and almost two tackles per game too. He too, was immense against Spain with a 100% tackle success and also making 14 clearances. He inadvertently struck in his own net to give Spain the lead, but redeemed himself by clinically dispatching a penalty in the shootouts.
Centre-back: Domagoj Vida
Vida helped Croatia with two cleansheets in the first two games, before returning to the fold against Denmark when he delivered his best performance of the World Cup so far. He won 5 of his aerial duels and also laid 60 accurate passes – behind only Rakitic and Modric in the team. He even attempted one dribble.
Left-back: Ilya Kutepov
Predominantly a left-back by trade, Kutepov was deployed as a centre-back when Russia reverted to a three-man defense against Spain and strained every sinew in keeping the mighty La Roja at bay. He made 10 clearances and made 2 successful tackles. Also, no player in the last 16 registered more interceptions than his 6. Kutepov even has an assist to his name from the early stages of the competition.
Defensive midfielder: Roman Zobnin
Operating at the base of the midfield, Zobnin has been crucial to breaking the opposition play, averaging 2.5 interceptions and 3 tackles per game. He’s also seen getting involved in the attack, laying at least one key pass in each game so far. One of those helped Cheryshev score in the 5-0 drubbing of Saudi Arabia in the curtain-raiser.
Right-midfielder: Ante Rebic
Rebic may not have pulled up trees in the attacking midfield role, but his presence is undeniable. He’s attempted six shots at goal, one finding the net when he pounced on Willy Caballero’s error in the 3-0 battering of Argentina, and also attempted 11 dribbles, completing 8. He’s also laid one key pass.
Central midfielder: Luka Modric
Croatia’s star of the campaign so far, Modric has stemmed everything good coming through the Blazers. He’s been an indomitable presence in the centre of the park, constantly harrying the defenders with his movements and incisive passes. He’s Croatia’s top scorer with 2 goals and although he missed a penalty against Denmark, atoned for it by striking in the shootouts. Modric has laid 10 key passes so far, the highest by a Croatian while his passing accuracy of an incredible 85.4% is also unparalleled.
Central midfielder: Ivan Rakitic
Modric has been ably aided in the midfield by his Barcelona counterpart Rakitic, who’s been just as superb in the midfield. He rounded off the humiliation of Argentina with a goal and was on song again versus Denmark, making two key passes and laying 70 accurate passes, the highest by any player in the game. With an impressive 83% average pass success, Rakitic has also involved defensively, making 8 tackles in 3 games and 5 clearances.
Left-midfielder: Aleksandr Golovin
The likes of Denis Cheryshev may have walked away with all the plaudits for his goalscoring exploits, but Golovin is the architect of this Russian juggernaut. No Russian has created more chances than his 5, and also has 2 assists and a goal to his name. Russia’s 5-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia for a dream start was majorly down to him. He’s also had 80% take-on success and winning 11 tackles. He’d be needing to inspire the creative juices against Croatia too.
Striker: Artem Dzyuba
Another revelation in this impressive Russia team, Dzyuba is the joint top scorer for his side with 3 goals, but also has an assist to his name. His incredible aerial prowess has seen him win a mammoth 9 duels, more than twice as much as the next best in the side. He most recently struck the equalising penalty against Spain and would lead the line as the lone striker against Croatia too.