World Cup ICYMI: RO16 – Spain vs. Russia, Denmark vs. Croatia

Even though we’ve merely entered the knockout phases, this World Cup is slowly but surely proving to be a real giant killer. With the first two round of 16 encounters still bubbling and oozing from the night before, it was time for game three and four in the ruthless knockouts. Russia had the tough task of trying to survive Spain, and a confidence-laden Croatia asked Denmark to dance.

In short:

  • 38-year-old Sergei Ignashevich scored a remarkable scorpion kick own goal after trying to mark Sergio Ramos from a Spanish free kick. The Russian defender was so focused on trying to curb Ramos that he forgot to look for the ball’s whereabouts.
  • Spain had no real urge to score another, at least it didn’t look like it. Russia played long balls to Rubeus Hagrid’s cousin Artem Dzyuba who did well to knock the ball down, but Gerard Piqué and Ramos halted any Russian approach who tried to get the second ball. It felt like half time couldn’t come quick enough…
  • PENALTY! Russia whipped in a freekick that Pique rather foolishly stopped with his arm. Dzyuba tucked it away to make it 1-1 in the 41th minute.
  • The second half was a big ol’ snoozefest. Both teams looked content with going to extra time. Spain did not really go for it, and Russia got extremely low defensively.
  • Extra time started and all of a sudden, the Spaniards played like they wanted to score a goal. The Russians managed to keep the score at 1-1 for the whole extra-time, but only just. Following a Spanish free kick, both Pique and Ramos got their shirts pulled and the later went down. The referee took to VAR to help him decide but cleared the incident.
  • Oh, and we saw our first ever fourth substitution in a world cup!
  • Rain and thunder joined the party for the penalty shoot-out, where Russia triumphed after two great Igor Akinfeev saves.
  • The second game between Denmark and Croatia started off with a bang, or two bangs, to be exact. A Danish long throw caused some chaos in the Croatian penalty box where Mathias Jørgensen popped up at the right time and place to score after one minute of play.
  • Three minutes later another chaotic (and hysterically funny) incident took place in the opposing penalty box. Andreas Christensen got on the short end of some friendly fire and took a clearance straight to the face, causing the ball to land at the feet of Mario Mandzukic who made it 1-1 in the fourth minute.
  • The rest of the game bounced back and forth like a pinball machine. The midfield maestros in Christian Eriksen and Luka Modric tried their very best to open up the play to no avail. Unlike the earlier game both teams wanted to score, for a change.
  • Just like the regular halves, the extra-time halves showcased football that was fast and all over the place, but without the goals. Much thanks to Kasper Schmeichel, who saved a 116th minute penalty from Modric.
  • The penalty shoot out was all about the keepers, and included some incredible saves. Danijel Subašić and Croatia stood as winners in the end.

The takeaway

  • Spain seemed very nonchalant and relaxed. You could distinguish the same behaviour and type of play from the winning team of 2010, but maybe they’re just lacking edge? Bench players Iago Aspas and Rodrigo Moreno are good, but they’re not quite Fernando Torres and Fernando Llorente.
  • David De Gea has never saved a penalty for Spain, and he should have saved at least one today. How is this new generation of Spanish players coping with taking over the great players preceding them?
  • Isco and Asensio both started this game, and finally we would have the pleasure of watching these two players that deserve more playing time in big games! And what did we get, really? Isco creates loads of key passes and always seems it shake things up. But does he change things up? Asensio possess a beautifully delicate left foot but seemed to be very frustrated playing at right wing.
  • Russia are running riot in this world cup, and who knows how far they will go. A ruthlessly organized defense mixed with raw talent such as Aleksandr Golovin or Cheryshev up front has been proven successful so far.  No matter how far they go, or how they play, people will most certainly try to bring politics in to the formula. I have to say though, that last penalty that never was for Spain… Would the referee have cleared it if Russia was shouting for it? I’m not so sure.
  • Croatia is looking like a very interesting side that can brush over any kind of team. We have already seen them face Brazil in the group stages, a game that didn’t trouble them noticeably. Croatia might reach the final from this very promising side of the knockout tree, and whoever they face in the final can obviously be beaten. Idemo!
  • Also, it is just beautiful that Russia, Sweden, Colombia, Switzerland, England or Croatia will play in a World Cup final! We have seen huge players and countries leave already, at such an early stage of the tournament. The 2018 World Cup is the underdog edition, and every clash seems incredibly hard to predict. A world cup where multiple countries genuinely believe that “Hey, we can actually do this!” is my kind of World Cup. This is the World Cup 2018; Giant Killer Edition.

Goal of the Day

This day didn’t spoil us with beautiful goals to be frank. If there is one goal that shows some kind of finishing ability from open play, it’s Mandzukic goal against Denmark. It was a smart finish, and brilliantly done by the Croatian striker to react so quickly. Rather than shooting the Telstar for the stars, he calmly hit the ball low to bury it in to the net. Andreas Christensen getting skyrocketed straight in the face has nothing to do with this being the goal of the day, by the way!

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