Two of Europe’s less-heralded sides will duel for a seat at football’s top table when Croatia take on Denmark in the Nizhny Novogrod stadium on Sunday with a place at the last 8 of the World Cup on the line.
Croatia enter their round of 16 clash with Denmark on Sunday harboring realistic ambitions of establishing themselves as genuine contenders to reach a World Cup final but they will face a stern test of their mettle against a Christian Eriksen-inspired Denmark intent on playing spoiler.
Zlatko Dalic’s team won all of their games on the way to running away with Group G but are tasked with overcoming a solid Denmark side, unbeaten thus far in Russia.
As difficult as they have been to break down, the Danes have struggled to creative chances with any real fluency in this World Cup. Two goals was all they could muster in their three group games, one each against Australia and Peru but in Christian Eriksen they possess a talent unmatched in Danish football since the days of Michael Laudrup.
The Tottenham man is a dual threat player, capable of both scoring and creating and the player most likely to conjure a trick to unlock the Croatian rearguard.
Croatia, meanwhile, have been one of the form teams in the first half of the World Cup. Their form in Group D brought them 7 goals and just 1 conceded, as well as a 3-0 annihilation of Argentina.
Luka Modric, the Real Madrid maestro who pulls the strings at the heart of the Croatia midfield, has been one of the best players so far in Russia and Denmark will have to limit his influence to introduce any of their own.
The winner of the tie will face the winner of Sunday’s early game between Spain and hosts Russia.