A look at Saturday’s World Cup quarterfinal games
SWEDEN VS. ENGLAND
Time: 7 a.m. PDT.
TV: Fox, Telemundo.
The buzz: This has been a strange tournament for England. Harry Kane leads the race for the Golden Boot, but half of his six goals have come on penalty kicks. And speaking of penalties, the Three Lions won their first-ever World Cup shootout in the round of 16 to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in 12 years. Coach Gareth Southgate, whose own miss in the 1996 Euros contributed to a streak during which England was eliminated on penalties in six tournaments dating to the 1990 World Cup, has emphasized a new mental approach with his team and it apparently worked against Colombia, when only one of five England players failed to convert from the spot. England, which won the World Cup in 1966, is the only former champion on its side of a lopsided bracket and in Sweden it faces a team that purposely turned its back on the distractions of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the country’s best player, in favor of a blue-collar, everyman kind of squad. That has paid off in Russia where Sweden’s five goals have come from four players while keeper Robin Olsen has posted three shutouts, the last coming in a 1-0 win over Switzerland in the round of 16.
RUSSIA VS. CROATIA
Time: 11 a.m. PDT.
TV: Fox, Telemundo.
The buzz: Russia, the worst-ranked team in the tournament at No. 70, is in the quarterfinals for the first time since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. And it didn’t get here by chance. It got here by sticking to an unattractive but effective game plan in its round-of-16 game with Spain, conceding possession and getting outshot 25-6 over 120 minutes before winning on penalty kicks. Russia has allowed five goals in the World Cup but only one came from the run of play; two others were own goals, one was on a penalty kick and another came on a free kick. On the other end, Artem Dzyuba and Denis Cheryshev lead the team with two goals each. Croatia, one of three unbeaten, untied teams in the final eight, hadn’t gone past the group stage in its last three World Cups. But it got here by beating Argentina in its group, then outlasting Denmark in one of the three round-of-16 games decided on penalty kicks. Croatia’s balanced attack has scored seven times in the tournament but only Luka Modric, with two, has multiple goals.
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