After they have gone through a turbulent period while featuring the group stage, Spain will face off against the host nation, Russia, in the round of 16, in a match that will take place at the LuzhnikiArena in Moscow. Despite the fact, the Red Fury finished top of Group B in front of Portugal, Fernando Hierro’s team failed to express their full potential, especially against two fairly weaker opponents such as Iran and Morocco. The 2010 World Cup winners have only pulled off one win in the group stage, defeating Iran by a narrow one-goal margin, while drawing two times, 3-3 with Portugal and 2-2 with Morocco. On the other hand, the Sbornaya opened the final tournament with an outstanding 5-0 triumph overSaudi Arabia, after which they have hammered Egypt 3-1. However, Stanislav Cherchesov’s team was smashed by Uruguay in the final match of the group stage with La Celeste outscoring the hosts by three goals to nil. These two sides have played against each other last year in a friendly match that ended in a 3-3 draw, but it will be their first meeting at the big tournament since Spain demolished Russia in the EURO 2008 semi-finals.
Hierro might opt to include Koke in the starting line-up in favor of Thiago Alcantara who showed very little against Morocco, while Mario Fernandes should be the one to replace Igor Smolnikov who picked up a red card against Uruguay on the right flank. Fedor Smolov should also return to the starting eleven replacing uninspiring Aleksey Miranchuk.
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