Yesterday’s knockout rounds, decided that Uruguay will play France in a Quarterfinal. Argentina and Portugal are sent home, but will the host join them? Russia has a recipe for disaster for Spain. Homefield advantage being one. Another could see the defense for Spain, get sliced open by Golovin and Cheryshev on the counter. Spain were less impressive against Morocco, and Russia can punish in the same ways Morocco did.
It will be a testament to Fernando Hierro, and how he can manage his squad, for the matchup against Russia. You did your first part, win the groups, now it’s time to shine. Spain played a midfield of Busquets, Thiago, Silva, Isco, and Iniesta. On paper, that is a damn impressive squad. On the pitch, it proved to be not enough. Busquets and Koke would pair better, as Thiago was caught out a couple times against Morocco. That’s the type of player Thiago is, however, he will get forward. With lack of pace in the Spanish midfield, Russia could feed on quick counters. With the induction of Koke, along Busquets, you will have a deeper double pivot in your midfield. This will open up some space for players to get behind. That’s why you could see Asensio starting against Russia. Simply getting behind the Russia defense, opens up enough for Spain to get forward. Could see Silva or Iniesta dropped to the bench. Isco has been the focal point for Spain. Leading the tournament in touches, he will need to have the ball in crucial situations. Hierro likes the 4-2-3-1 formation. It gives Isco the freedom in midfield to distribute. If Spain go down, and Russia sit in their own box, it will be interesting to see how Hierro makes adjustments. Keep an eye out for that.
The host of this World Cup, came out flying to the tournament. Posting a +7 goal differential in their first two matches, Russia looked very good. Then they got smacked 3-0 by Uruguay. Uruguay is very good by the way. Russia had tied Spain 3-3, back in A November friendly. This being a different magnitude of match, doesn’t mean shit. If Spain show up flat, Russia will run them right out of the building. Golovin and Cheryshev have been great for Russia so far. Smolov will need to be huge for Russia. He will need to connect and hold up play, so Russia will be able to get some numbers forward in attack. Set pieces is where Russia will need to grab a goal. They can punish Spain, who is fairly poor on set pieces. If Dzyuba starts up top, it could be a long day for Ramos and Company, especially on set pieces.
Curious to see the lineup for both teams. Russia has regularly rotated, and Spain need a switch to spark their team. Don’t sleep on Russia stealing this. Spain will need to be sharp.