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FIFA World Cup 2018: Hosts Russia take on Spain in Round of 16 clash; Croatia hope to continue high-flying run against Denmark

The two most recognisable names in global football were eliminated from the World Cup on Saturday. The knockout matches got off to a great start and still had plenty of star power.

France's lightning teenager Kylian Mbappe and Uruguay's silky veteran Edinson Cavani each scored two goals as their teams knocked out Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, respectively.

 FIFA World Cup 2018: Hosts Russia take on Spain in Round of 16 clash; Croatia hope to continue high-flying run against Denmark

Spain's players take part during training ahead of the Round of 16 against Russia. AP

In a very open World Cup, Spain are still one of the favourites and they take on Russia in the Round of 16 on Sunday. Croatia, who have a 100 percent winning record at the World Cup so far, face Denmark in the last-16.

Here’s a look at what you can expect on Sunday at the World Cup in Russia:

Round of 16: Spain vs Russia (7.30 pm)

Three matches, six goals scored and five conceded: That was good enough to earn Spain a favourable matchup on Sunday with hosts Russia, who have already overachieved in the tournament, rather than robust Uruguay. The Spaniards also squeezed into the half of the draw that doesn't include Brazil, France or Belgium.

Spain will have to deal with a hostile crowd at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, the historic and much-renovated venue where Russia opened the World Cup with a 5-0 romp over Saudi Arabia.

But Russia looked overmatched against Uruguay amid similar friendly environs in Samara.

Fernando Hierro's unexpected ascendancy to coach — after Julen Lopetegui was fired for taking a job with Real Madrid — has allowed the former national team star to build on an impressive World Cup history. He reached the World Cup quarter-finals twice in three appearances, and he scored five goals in the tournament, the last coming in a 2002 group-stage win over Paraguay. His 29 international goals for Spain rank fifth in national team history.

Goal-scoring glory aside, Hierro was no striker. He played defensive midfielder, and that's the part of the field where Spain have been shaky.

Long known for their defense, Spain didn't give up a single goal in the knockout stage during their 2010 World Cup triumph.

Some of this year's goals can be traced to individual mistakes — with goalkeeper David De Gea under particular scrutiny — rather than systemic breakdowns. Hierro has pledged to stick with De Gea, and attention to detail on the back end against Russia ought to be enough for a team of Spain's superior talent.

Round of 16: Croatia vs Denmark (11.30 pm)

Both of these teams were unbeaten in group play, but Croatia were far more impressive.

Entering the tournament at 20th in the FIFA rankings, Croatia have outscored their group opponents 7-1, including a 3-0 humiliation of Argentina. The only team to score against Croatia were Iceland through a 76th-minute penalty in a match the group leaders didn't need to win.

Even so, coach Zlatko Dalic said he was "annoyed" by the misstep against Iceland. This Croatia team has high standards, as Denmark coach Age Hareide knows.

Asked to analyse their opponents in detail ahead of the clash at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Hareide smiled and shook his head: "Very good. It's very good."

Captain Luka Modric, who plays for Real Madrid in La Liga, is the 32-year-old leader of a veteran team that also includes 30-year-old Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona and 32-year-old Mario Mandzukic of Juventus. Croatia's best World Cup result was a semi-final appearance in 1998, and Dalic has said this team is deeper than that squad, which only had two players on major European clubs.

The Danes, meanwhile, have just two goals — one by Tottenham star Christian Eriksen — and one victory, over Peru. Denmark managed a 1-1 draw against Australia and then were content to sit back in a 0-0 draw against France that benefited both teams.

The star for Denmark has been goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel. The goal by Australia was the only one he's allowed in the team's last seven matches.

The winner of Spain-Russia will play the Croatia-Denmark victor in the quarter-finals.

With inputs from AP

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Updated Date: Jul 01, 2018 10:17:44 IST