The host Russia is up against the Spain July 1st at the Luzhniki stadium. The Russians had a good start to the tournament against Saudi Arabia and then Egypt but suffered a humiliating loss to Uruguay in their last encounter. But there is a ray of new hope that they might qualify for the quarter-finals, for the first time.
The Spanish, on the other hand, could manage to tame the Iranians only, drawing the 2 games against Portugal and Morocco. They have not faced defeat in 23 matches, but that form seems to evade them at this stage. The players are not convincing enough as a team, and it shows on their performance, very easily. The blame game on goalie David de Gea is not going to help anyone. To remind people, he committed a fatal mistake in the match against the Portuguese and with Morocco, he gave away 2 goals.
Russia were at the receiving end of the stick before the start of the tournament. But the home conditions and the home crowd support saw that they have a good time at the football pitch. The performance that they put up against the Arabians and the Egyptians has given reason to every Russian to smile. They are heavily dependent on their star players Aleksandr Golovin and the captain cum Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev. The stage is all set and it cannot get bigger than this, at least for the Russians, at this moment.
Team Spain would not have dreamt of a sadder start to their world cup tour. Just before the tournament kicked off, their manager Julen Lopetegui was sacked, then drew a match, won one and again a draw. They also conceded 5 goals in their 3 matches, which a is a grave matter of concern on their defense. This could be the little ray of hope for the Russians to ride on.
Thankfully, the Spain squad does not have any injury concerns, and they can go all out on this match. However, Russians still do not have their talented midfielder Aleksandr Erokhn and Smolnikov.
The Spanish will no doubt start as favorites but if Russians hold their nerve and get off to a good start, securing a goal early in the game, then they can probably find themselves to be playing longer in the tournament. Spain has to venture out very carefully from now onwards.