Thunderstorm warning looms over Moscow

Amol Gokhale
Saturday, 30 June 2018

Russia faces an uphill task against Spain as hosts takes on 2010 Champion at Luzhniki Stadium

MOSCOW: Since Friday evening, a repeat SMS was being issued by network provider: 'A thunderstorm warning has been issued, it might rain, there's a possibility of hailstorm as well. Please do not park your cars under the trees.’

The showers were predicted since Saturday early morning, but, in reality, till noon, it was extremely hot, probably a warning of what was to come ahead.

On Sunday, another storm will hit Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, the one Russians dread the most, it's named 'La Roja’. Is it the storm Russian coach Stanislav Cherchesov should lose his sleep? Yes, it is.

But, Spain's run in the 2018 FIFA World Cup hasn't been the one that made them the pre-tournament contenders as they were caught in a storm of their own after coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked 48-hours before their World Cup opener.

Their remarkable comeback against Portugal ended in a 3-3 draw with Cristiano Ronaldo piece of magic; they edged past Iran 1-0 and the goalscorer Diego Costa had no clue how the ball found the back of the net; while a stoppage-time winner saved their blushes and earned them a 2-2 draw against Morocco.

These three results clearly indicate that Spain hasn't hit the top form yet and the sacking of Lopetegui is still lingering somewhere in their subconscious. Things have simply not clicked so far.

The back four of Dani Carvajal, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos and Jordi Alba hasn't been watertight, while David de Gea is somewhat out of form adding to the woes of Fernando Hierro.

The Spanish coach also hasn't found his settled midfield despite his side being the best technically gifted side in the tournament. Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and David Silva - three of the best midfield maestros in the World haven't managed to weave their magic so far and it has certainly hurt ‘La Roja’. Real Madrid’s attacking midfielder Isco has been livewire so far and has carried Spain along with Diego Costa.

One gets a feeling that Spain are kind of caught in a limbo, where the young guns like Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio are too inexperienced, while the old guard is failing to put that one final pass. Having said that, the Spanish Armada needs just one game to turn out things and one might just feel that knock out stage is where they will hit the ground running.

Russia has done well so far and has the potential to catch Spain off-guard. There is no sign of thunderstorm just yet, there might be one hitting Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday evening.

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