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Host Russia Faces Stiffest World Cup Match Yet With Croatia on Deck

Host nation Russia will look for its fantastic run at the 2018 FIFA World Cup to continue in the quarterfinals, but a date with Croatia looms large. One of the best sides at the tournament, Croatia was once +4000 to win the World Cup but now sits at +650 and is +125 in moneyline markets to beat Russia inside 90 minutes.

Elsewhere on the oddsboard for Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup, Russia is +275 with the draw +210 at Bovada. The total is 2 with OVER +105 and UNDER -125 and in spread markets, Croatia is a half-goal fave at +125 with Russia coming back at -150 as half-goal dogs.

Bet on the 2018 World Cup here

SHARK BITES
  • France (1998) was the last host nation to win the World Cup.
  • Croatia is unbeaten in eight competitive international matches (six wins, two draws).
  • Croatia has seven goals from six different goalscorers.

Home Sweet Home

One thing Russia certainly has going for it is the fact that they are playing on home turf and host nations have generally performed quite well at World Cups down the years.

Six hosts have won the World Cup, with France being the last back in 1998. Now, I don’t think anybody is expecting Russia to win the whole thing and they may very well have peaked with their penalty kicks win over Spain in the Round of 16. Should we be surprised that they’ve advanced this far?

Well, not really. They had an extremely favorable group and with the exception of South Africa in 2010, host nations have always gotten out of the group stage. As mentioned, Spain was up next and that side was sort of in shambles after the sacking of Julen Lopetegui days before their opener against Portugal.

While their path to this point has been fairly favorable, they were certainly exposed against Uruguay in that 3-0 thumping on Matchday 3 and that is probably the version of Russia I expect in the quarters. Much like Uruguay, Croatia has shot up the oddsboard playing brilliant football along the way.

Winning Games When it Counts

Despite a tough 1-1 after 90 minutes against Denmark, Croatia was able to win on penalties in a wild shootout that saw keeper Danijel Subasic become just the second in World Cup history to record three saves in a shootout (Ricardo vs England, 2006).

That win extended an unbeaten run in competitive matches to eight for Croatia, dating back to World Cup qualifiers. Croatia’s last loss in a competitive match was 1-0 to Turkey on September 5 of last year. Since then, they drew Finland 1-1, beat Ukraine 2-0 and Greece 4-1 and drew Greece 0-0 which brought them into the World Cup group stage where they’ve beaten Nigeria, Argentina, Iceland and, of course, the Danes.

Yes, the Croats have dropped a couple of friendlies in there with 2-0 defeats to both Peru and Brazil, but since the World Cup began, you can make a case that Croatia has been the best side in Russia.

Croatia is on pace to rekindle the memories of the 1998 Davor Šuker-led side that finished third in France. One more win and folks will be talking about the possibility of a better finish than that legendary side.

Croatia Goals Can Come from Anywhere

One aspect of this Croatian side that sort of separates it from the rest of the competition is how balanced it has been. We all knew about the world-class midfielders that would be on display in Russia, but considering how well the backline has played (led by the oft-maligned Dejan Lovren of Liverpool) and the threat in attack stemming from players like Ante Rebić, this team can kill you in a plethora of ways.

We’ve seen that on the scoresheet as Croatia has scored seven goals at the 2018 World Cup (eight counting the Nigeria own goal) and six players have been responsible for those. Luka Modrić leads the way with two while Ivan Rakitić, Milan Badelj, Ivan Perišić, Mario Mandžukić and Rebić have each chipped in with one.

As I write this (ahead of the Colombia-England game), only Belgium offers a more threatening attack with eight players each finding the scoresheet, but of course they had the luxury of feasting on minnows Panama and Tunisia before a late surge against Japan in the Round of 16.

Anytime goalscorer markets look pretty good if you’re looking for a Croatian player to back. Mandžukić is available for +220, while Andrej Kramarić is +275, Modrić is +375, Rebić is +350 and so on. Good value up and down the board here for anytime scorer markets.