World Cup 2018 Predictions: Updated Final Picks Before Sunday's Knockout Play

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IJuly 1, 2018

TOPSHOT - Spain's midfielder Isco (2ndL) celebrates with (fromL) Spain's defender Sergio Ramos, Spain's defender Jordi Alba and Spain's defender Gerard Pique after scoring their first goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Spain and Morocco at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on June 25, 2018. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS        (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
OZAN KOSE/Getty Images

Hosts Russia are back in action on Sunday at the 2018 FIFA World Cup as they take on Spain at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow for a place in the quarter-finals.

The winner of that game will play either Croatia or Denmark, who also clash on Sunday at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.


Sundays's Schedule

Spain vs. Russia, 5 p.m. local time/3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET

Croatia vs. Denmark, 9 p.m. local time/7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET


Round-of-16 Fixtures (Picks)

Sunday, July 1

Spain vs. Russia (Spain)

Croatia vs. Denmark (Croatia)


Monday, July 2

Brazil vs. Mexico (Brazil)

Belgium vs. Japan (Belgium)


Tuesday, July 3

Sweden vs. Switzerland (Sweden)

Colombia vs. England (England)


Sunday Preview

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 19:   Aleksandr Golovin of Russia applauds at the end of during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Russia and Egypt at Saint Petersburg Stadium on June 19, 2018 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Robbi
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Russia are the underdogs against Spain but can count on home support as they bid to continue their World Cup adventure.

Winger Denis Cheryshev said his team need to give the fans something to cheer when they take on Fernando Hierro's side, telling FIFA TV (h/t FIFA's Igor Borunov).

"Spain is one of the best teams in the world," he said. "It's going to be hard for us, but we'll have the support of 80,000 fans at the stadium and millions in front of TV screens. We need to give them something to be happy about."

Cheryshev has had an impressive tournament, scoring three goals for the hosts. Meanwhile, Aleksandr Golovin and Artem Dzyuba both have two for a Russia team that has surpassed pre-tournament expectations by making it to the knockout stages.

However, ousting Spain looks a step too far for Stanislav Cherchesov's men. La Roja topped Group B despite not being at their best in their opening three games.

Their failings have been in defence, where goalkeeper David De Gea has come under pressure after a mistake against Portugal. Sports writer Andy West believes the Manchester United man is the team's Achilles heel:

Andy West @andywest01

@hi29hi29 Ramos and Iniesta but yes. I just think De Gea is Spain's weak link. Breeds uncertainty throughout the defence.

Spain will have to improve defensively if they are to progress, particularly as Russia showed their pace on the counter-attack in wins over Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The hosts were comfortably beaten 3-0 by Uruguay in their final group game, and Spain have the quality to inflict a similar result.

Croatia will also be expected to make it into the last eight after winning all three games on their way to topping Group D.

Their performances allowed manager Zlatko Dalic the luxury of resting key players for their last 16 match. Football journalist Milos Markovic highlighted the team's strengths:

Miloš Marković @MilosMarkovic

@_kierk sent you the wrong reply earlier :) Dalic manager to harness the individual qualities and compensate for the shortcomings. They work as a team, pushing the individuals that can make a difference forward, without suffocating them in mediocrity.

Denmark have been solid if unspectacular at the World Cup, but they possess their own match-winner in Tottenham Hotspur's Christian Eriksen.

Former goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel said he would rather have Eriksen in his team than Brazil's Neymar:

Peter Schmeichel @Pschmeichel1

Any day of the week, and I’ve said this before, I would have Eriksen over Neymar. Who’s with me?

Eriksen will be a threat but may find it hard breaking down a team that has only conceded one goal at the World Cup. Croatia look the stronger, more dangerous side and should have enough for victory.