Entire Croatia was already dreaming of emulating their success of 1998 FIFA World Cup in France where they finished third, after Luka Modric-led side thumped Argentina 3-0 in Nizhny Novgorod.
On the other hand, whole of Russia was hoping that team would make out of the group stage and they have already exceeded the expectations with a heroic win over Spain in the Round of 16.
After the stellar performance against ‘La Roja’, Russia celebrated as if they had already won the Cup and now they hope that they can reach the semi-final for the first time since 1966 when as Soviet Union did make it to last four.
Sochi, a city on the Black Sea, would host the showdown between two countries and there is no doubt that Croatia would face a hostile reception from the home fans who would be rooting for their side to win the match.
In a game against Spain, where Russia barely managed to put together 200 passes compared to over 1000 by their counterpart and after chasing shadows for 120 minutes, they did not buckle down and held their nerves in the shootout.
The talent at disposal of Dalic is enviable, with the Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic supplying ammunition to Juventus’ workhorse Mario Mandzukic flanked by Inter’s Ivan Perisic and Eintracht Frankfurt’s Ante Rebic.
It will be an interesting tactical duel between two completely different sides as they look to make the most of it, just like England manager Gareth Southgate said, “This may not get a better opportunity than this.”
Russia beat Spain 4-3 on penalties in the round of 16 thanks to two saves by goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
They were runners-up in Group A, beating Saudi Arabia 5-0 and Egypt 3-1 but then losing 3-0 to Uruguay.
Russia are playing in a World Cup quarter-final for the first time as an independent nation. The Soviet Union reached the 1966 semi-finals.
Artem Dzyuba and Denis Cheryshev have scored three goals each for Russia in the tournament while Luka Modric is the leading scorer for Croatia with two.