World Cup hosts Russia entertain Spain in the round of 16 stage of the tournament on Sunday. The Russians impressed during the group phase with victories over Saudi Arabia and Egypt but they are up against a whole different opposition in La Roja, who have players superior in terms of individual ability.
Despite this, the Russians will be hoping for a major slice of luck versus Fernando Hierro’s men as they seek to make the best use of their home conditions. Spain managed to avoid defeats in each of their group stage games but they could only muster a solitary victory which resulted from a 1-0 triumph over Iran.
Players to watch for:
Aleksandr Golovin – Russia: The 22-year-old has been dubbed as the country’s poster boy for the World Cup and so far, he has delivered with one goal and two assists in the two games in which he has featured. Golovin has played in a central attacking role ever since Alan Dragoev’s injury against Saudi and this has brought more out of him with his ability to link up with his fellow frontmen. In addition to his strong passing attributes, Golovin also offers a genuine threat with his delivery from set-pieces and the likes of Artem Dzyuba may have the opportunity to test La Roja’s aerial prowess on the day.
Diego Costa – Spain: Before the start of the World Cup, there were question marks whether Diego Costa would start ahead of someone like Rodrigo Moreno. However, these doubts have been raised since the Portugal game where Costa bagged a brace for himself. Since then, the Spaniard has added another goal to his World Cup tally versus Iran which was rather fortuitous but he should be beaming with confidence with those strikes. Costa was hugely impressive with his hold-up play during the group stage and the Russian backline may have a tough time handling his physique and movement, should he start off in a bright manner.
Russia 0-3 Spain
Image – Getty