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World Cup 2018: Odds and Predictions for Saturday Quarter-Final Matches

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJuly 7, 2018

TOPSHOT - England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot during the Russia 2018 World Cup round of 16 football match between Colombia and England at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow on July 3, 2018. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS        (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/Getty Images

England face Sweden in the 2018 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday after a 12-year absence from the last eight of the competition, hoping to make the semi-finals for the first time since 1990.

Gareth Southgate led the Three Lions to a penalty-shootout victory over Colombia in the round of 16, but Sweden have only conceded in one of their four matches in Russia and look like an emerging dark horse.

The hosts will then take on Croatia at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi for the last remaining semi-final place. Russia haven't advanced past the quarter-finals since 1966, while Croatia's run to third place in 1998 came after their only previous trip to the last four.

Stanislav Cherchesov has mentored Russia to thrive on being underdogs, most notably beating Spain on penalties in the last 16 to reach this point. Croatia, meanwhile, have been one of the most attractive teams to watch.

          

Saturday's Schedule, Predictions

Sweden 1-2 England AET, 6 p.m. local time/3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET

Russia 1-2 Croatia, 9 p.m. local time/7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET

            

Saturday's World Cup Match Odds

Sweden (39-10), Draw (51-25), England (77-100)

Russia (29-10), Draw (21-10), Croatia (32-25)

All odds according to OddsShark.

          

England Eke Out Narrow Win; Croatia Keep Cruising

Sweden defied the odds to come out on top of an extremely challenging Group F, comprising Germany, Mexico and South Korea. By no means have England got an easy task on their hands.

Only through a 95th-minute Toni Kroos missile were Die Mannschaft able to hand Sweden their only defeat of the World Cup, and ESPN FC pundit Shaka Hislop warned that their aerial threat is a particular strength:

Mexico were unable to break down a Swedish defence led by captain and potent penalty-taker Andreas Granqvist, with the Blagult keeping clean sheets against El Tri and Switzerland in their most recent outings.

Southgate's men were forced into extra time after Colombia headed in an injury-time equaliser on Tuesday, meaning the Three Lions have yet to keep a clean sheet at this World Cup.

It's a clash of styles that could be treacherous for an attacking-oriented side such as England, but commentator Ian Darke did spot one weakness in the opposition's armour:

Ian Darke @IanDarke

England have lacked threat down left. Strong case for natural left footer like Rose. Especially as Sweden No1 right back Lustig suspended.

As if that weren't enough, This Morning's oinking oracle, Mystic Marcus, vouched for the Three Lions ahead of their match at Samara Arena:

This Morning @thismorning

Mystic Marcus the Psychic Pig (who hasn't been wrong yet) says... @England! 🐷🍏 @FIFAWorldCup #ENGSWE https://t.co/G4FwuHcqz0

Roughly 1,120 miles to the south, Croatia will seek to halt Russia's romp through the competition, which recently saw them bounce back from defeat to Uruguay with a dramatic shootout win over Spain.

While Sweden are attempting to overcome a large population deficit when they run into England, the gulf in Croatia's head count compared to their quarter-final opponents is a lot steeper, per statistician Simon Gleave:

Simon Gleave @SimonGleave

Population per #WorldCup quarter-finalist 🇧🇷Brazil: 210.8 million 🇷🇺Russia: 143.9 million 🇫🇷France: 65.2 million 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿England: 53.0 million 🇧🇪Belgium: 11.4 million 🇸🇪Sweden: 9.9 million 🇭🇷Croatia: 4.1 million 🇺🇾Uruguay: 3.4 million via @DMerken

This head-to-head is interesting in that Russia have already shown, in beating Spain, they can implement a frustrating defensive game against a passing team based on hard work.

However, Zlatko Dalic's men have the weapons to change their approach that Spain perhaps didn't, with versatile forwards Mario Mandzukic and Ante Rebic impressing en route to the last eight.

Reuters showed Russia have some animal fortune-tellers of their own that predicted the hosts will advance, though it's likely they come undone against arguably the best team left in the competition:

Reuters Top News @Reuters

Dolphins in Russia, predict their home country will win World Cup match against Croatia https://t.co/YQ8QmKmfSw

Russia have summoned an hitherto unseen strength at this home World Cup, but Uruguay's 3-0 win in the group stage showed they can be unsettled and perhaps don't possess the fortitude to come back from falling first.

Croatia's round-of-16 game against Denmark was the first in which they went behind at this tournament, but they persevered and came back to progress, suggesting they have the edge in the all-important mental battle.

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