Croatia will look to capitalize on their blazing form in the group stages as they face a stern against Denmark in the Round of 16.

Tottenham fans will be vesting a lot of interest as Luka Modric’s Croatia and Christian Eriksen’s Denmark go head to head at the Nizhny Novgorod stadium on Sunday. It will be a clash of Spurs’ past and present as two of the most gifted midfielders in European football lock horns to fight for their nation in this riveting Round of 16 clash this weekend.

Croatia are coming into this tie as one of the best-performing sides in the competition, having boasted a 100% record in the group stages. They are just one of three teams to have achieved that feat in this highly exciting and competitive World Cup. And given the quality of their opponents thus far, it’s probably fair to say that Croatia have arguably been the best team in the tournament. Therefore, they can be deemed as a genuine contender going into this fixture.

Denmark, on the other hand, played out a drab stalemate against France to book their places in the knockout stages. Although their only win came against a disappointing Peru side, it’s also fair to mention that the Europeans have remained unbeaten in the group stage, winning one and drawing two matches. Thus, we can expect Denmark to provide a stern test for Croatia in this crucial Round of 16 match-ups this weekend.

This will be the seventh meeting between these two sides, and the records being perfectly even with two wins each and a draw for each of the sides. However, the only previous encounter between these two sides in a major competition was at Euro 1996. The Croats won 3-0 in the group stage match-up thanks to goals from Davor Suker (2) Zvonimir Boban(1).

And here at the Hard Tackle, we will take a close look at these two European giants as they lock horns this weekend.

Team news & tactics

Croatia

Although much of Croatia’s impressive display has revolved around their midfield and offence, it’s worth noting that Hrvatska have conceded only one goal in their three group games. And the only goal came against Iceland from the penalty spot. In addition, the midfield duo of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic have been flawless, while Ante Rebic has been one of the rising stars in this edition of the FIFA World Cup.

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, RUSSIA - JUNE 21: Ante Rebic of Croatia celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Argentina and Croatia at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on June 21, 2018 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Ante Rebic will definitely take some stopping this weekend.(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

However, head coach Zlatko Dalic did ring in the changes in the last against Iceland, resting few of his key players. Thus, we can expect the 51-year-old to start with his strongest XI, despite providing an impressive display with the B-team.

The likes of Ivan Rakitic, Marcelo Brozovic and Mario Mandzukic will return to the side after being rested against Iceland. However, no less than eight Croatian players, including Rakitic, Mandzukic and Brozovic are one booking away from a one-match suspension. Therefore, Dalic will be hoping his players to be wary of their discipline when they face Denmark on Sunday.

In addition, this could also pave way for the likes of Mateo Kovacic and Milan Badelj to play a key role in the second half. Kovacic, in particular, is a talented individual and might come handy against a rigid Danish defence.

Predicted lineup (4-3-3): Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic; Rakitic, Brozovic, Modric; Rebic, Mandzukic, Perisic.

Denmark

The key to Denmark’s qualification to the round of 16 has been their defensive solidity. Thus, we can expect Age Hareide’s side to remain cautious in their attempts of nullifying the dangerous Croatia attack. The likes of Kasper Schmeichel, Andreas Christensen and Simon Kjaer have been crucial to Denmark’s success and will once again play a key role this weekend.

Christian Eriksen will once again be key for Denmark (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Christian Eriksen will once again be key for Denmark (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

However, we will likely see one or two changes from the team that drew against France. Key midfielder William Kvist is sidelined with an injury with Andreas Christensen set to deputize in the holding midfield position. The Chelsea defender did operate in the CDM role against France and will be tasked the responsibility of covering Denmark’s back four.

Thomas Delaney is also expected to shift into a deeper position in order to support Christensen at the base of Denmark’s 4-2-3-1. Delaney, who will join Borussia Dortmund next season, will be keen on making an impression to his employers with a good performance against Croatia.

In attack, Andreas Cornelius will be replaced by Feyenoord’s Nicolai Jorgensen. However, Yusuf Poulsen might have to make way for Viktor Fischer on the right flank as Denmark would want to have more pace in their attack, in an attempt to catch Croatia on the break.

Predicted lineup (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Dalsgaard, Kjaer, Zanka, Larsen; Christensen, Delaney; Poulsen, Eriksen, Sisto; Jorgensen.

Key stats

  • There have been under 2.5 goals scored in 6 of Denmark‘s last 7 games.
  • Croatia have won 5 of their last 6 matches
  • Croatia have reached the knockout stages of the World Cup for only the second time after 1998. They finished third that year, their best ever performance at a major tournament.
  • Denmark are undefeated in their last 12 matches.

Player to watch out for

Thomas Delaney (Denmark)

Denmark will be banking on Christian Eriksen for some top level performances at the World Cup in Russia. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Denmark will be banking on Thomas Delaney for some top-level performances against Croatia. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

In a match that will witness some of the game’s finest and gifted talents on the pitch, a more hard-working and industrial figure of Thomas Delaney will once again be a crucial outlet for Denmark.

The former Copenhagen midfielder has the winning mentality which is coupled with his extraordinary work-rate and commitment. Delaney’s style of play has epitomised Denmark’s campaign in this World Cup thus far and if the Dynamites are to further their hopes of achieving big in this competition, his performance will likely become a key factor.

And the onus will be on the 26-year-old to prevent the likes of Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric taking control of midfield as the Danes look to nullify the high powered Croatian attacks.

Prediction

Croatia 1-2 Denmark

Despite their incredible form coming into this fixture, Croatia are likely to face a series of problems in manipulating a strong Denmark defence. Even though the Danish attack hasn’t been up to the task as of yet, Croatia’s tendency to get frustrated might just hand them the extra pint of space they need to rev a high powered counter attack.

And if they can stop the likes of Rakitic, Modric and Rebic, we might as well see another huge upset in this edition of the FIFA World Cup.

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