The second part to our World Cup quarter final bitcoin betting guide looks at Saturday's matches.
Sweden, England, Croatia, and Russia have shifted from a low-pressured outsider position to one of high national expectation. One of these huge underdogs will make it to the World Cup final. Now is the time for all these nations to dream big.
However, none of these teams have played with much confidence so far this summer while only one, Sweden, got through their second round tie without extra-time. There will be plenty of tired legs on Saturday in two nervous and cautious ties.
Sweden v England 7th July 14:00
England fans are just starting to believe. A first ever penalty shootout victory in the World Cup seems like a sign, like the stars are aligning for Gareth Southgate’s side to win the competition for the first time since 1966. This, of course, is premature. England have only scored twice from open play, both times against Panama, and are yet to put in a particularly assured attacking performance.
And Sweden won’t be easy opponents. This might be the “easier” half of the draw but England may have preferred to play a more open team rather than this purely defensive side; the Swedes have conceded just two goals so far in Russia and they, like England, will be starting to think they are destined to reach the final.
Tactics & line-up
England will no doubt continue with the 3-5-2 used in every game so far, although question marks were raised over Dele Alli’s fitness in the defeat of Colombia. Ruben Loftus-Cheek could be set for a start, particularly given that England need to play with directness, verticality, and tempo against such a stubborn Sweden defence. England will dominate the vast majority of possession but will struggle to create chances.
Sweden’s 4-4-2 formation is very old-school.
Worryingly, they are not unlike Iceland in using a basic system and direct style of football, namely holding a deep line and punting the ball up to their two big forwards. They will look to deny space in the final third and hope to keep things at 0-0 for as long as possible. Their superior fitness – England’s extra-time was draining – could be the key to another World Cup shock.
Things to look out for
Kieran Trippier, England’s best performer so far, is the most important player on Saturday. His crossing, from open play and dead balls, will be crucial, not least because Sweden’s narrow defensive blockade could leave gaps for him on the overlap. Harry Kane’s head-to-head with Sweden’s standout defender Andreas Granqvist will be fascinating; the England captain will need Trippier to be on form if he is to score against this mean defence.
Raheem Sterling is certainly worth keeping an eye on. He has performed well enough so far, working hard and contributing with neat passing, but is yet to light up a game. His pace, particularly in making runs beyond the Sweden defence, could leave 33-year-old Granqvist with too much to do.
Prediction: Back England to win at 1.91*
Russia v Croatia 7th July 18:00
When the draw for the second round was complete, it was assumed that one quarter-final would see a confident and ruthless Croatia look to upset second favourites Spain. Instead, the hosts have made the last eight and their opponents are considerably weaker than they were one week ago. Incredibly, the lowest-ranking nation competing in the World Cup this year has a decent chance of making the last four.
Croatia's penalty-shootout victory over Denmark in the previous round suggested Zlatko Dalic's side aren't quite the swashbuckling potential winners many had thought. The Danes comfortably nullified Mario Mandzukic and Luka Modric, not unlike how Russia frustrated Spain; this will be a very close and low-scoring game.
Tactics & line-up
Russia will probably continue with their backs-to-the-walls approach on Saturday evening.
Russia held just 20% possession against Spain and completed four times fewer passes.
Spain just couldn't break down that deep-lying 5-4-1 formation. 38-year-old centre-back Sergei Ignashevic was inspirational after his early own goal, but having defended for 120 minutes that brick wall defence might be jaded. It is certainly more energy-sapping to defend than it is to attack.
It is highly likely that either England or Croatia will make the World Cup final this year, and as the excitement builds so does the pressure; Modric and company will go into this game knowing that expectations have risen dramatically. They aren't likely to change their basic 4-2-3-1 shape, although Croatia will look to increase the tempo of their attacks at the Fisht Stadium; their cautiousness almost cost them dearly in the second round.
Things to look out for
Milan Baldej, who scored one and created another against Iceland, was dropped for the Denmark match but surely deserves a recall for this one. Modric's ability to thread the ball through the eye of a needle makes him the key player on Saturday given how narrow, compact, and defensive this Russia team have become. Mandzukic's aerial ability, if found by a Perisic cross, is arguably the favourites' best route to goal.
Denis Cheryshev, scorer of three goals in the group stages, was unlucky to be dropped for the Spain match in order to make room for a more defensive midfielder, Daler Kuzyaev. It will be fascinating to see whether Stanislav Cherchesov opts for the same starting lineup, or is willing to open up slightly more by starting his breakout star Cheryshev. Igor Akinfeev was the shootout hero against Spain; he'll need another man-of-the-match performance to be on the winning side here.
Prediction: Back the draw in 90 minutes at 3.08*
*Odds subject to change, all match times UTC