Four things to look out for on Saturday at the World Cup

Xinhua
Saturday sees the last two quarterfinals of the 2016 World Cup finals as England, Sweden, Russia and Croatia look to qualify for the semifinals. 
Xinhua

Saturday sees the last two quarterfinals of the 2016 World Cup finals as England, Sweden, Russia and Croatia look to qualify for the semifinals. Here are some things to watch out for on what is likely to be another tense day in Russia.

1. Can England create chances from open play?

England deserves to be in the last eight after some bright performances and a display of personality against Colombia. However it is worrying for England fans that they have struggled to create chances from open play. Just two of England's nine goals have come from passing moves, with one of those seeing the ball end up in the back of the net after a fortuitous deflection. The good news is it shows how efficient England have been from set-pieces, but it has meant they have failed to finish off Tunisia and Colombia when they should have and you can't be that forgiving in the last eight of the World Cup.

2. Sweden: England's bogeymen

England failed to beat Sweden in a competitive game until 2012 and were unable to defeat them in 12 matches between 1968 and 2011. That shows that Sweden is going to make life really hard for the English in Samara. If the fact that they knocked the Swiss out of the last 16 doesn't convince you, remember that in the play-offs against Italy that booked their tickets to Russia, they played 180 minutes against the Italians and failed to concede a goal.

3. Can Russia do it again?

Many Russians probably look on their last 16 win against Spain as a minor miracle as the hosts had just 25 percent of the ball, but soaked up the Spanish pressure to win on penalties. Croatia will present a similar challenge to the Spanish, with a tidy passing midfield, but the Croatians are more direct and Russia will have to defend as well as they did against Spain and maybe even better. The return of Alan Dzagoev should give them a bit more creativity in the middle of the pitch. Can the Russians do it again?

4. Croatia to repeat the feats of 1998?

In 1998, Croatia finished third in the World Cup with a team considered to be their country's best ever side. If they win against Russia, this Croatian team will join them in the history books. In Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, Croatia have arguably the best midfield in Russia and Mario Mandzukic and Ante Rebic mean they will be more forceful in attack than the Spanish. Until their dramatic penalty shootout win against Denmark in the last round, the Croatians hadn't progressed past the last 16 since 2008. They will believe now they that can equal the 'Class of 98'.

Special Reports
Top