Hosts Russia face a daunting test in their World Cup enterprise when 2010 champions Spain step onto the Luzhniki Stadium in the Round of 16 contest on Sunday.
Russia breezed through their first two group opponents; Saudi Arabia and Egypt before a reversal against Uruguay in their final group game set them up for a meeting with Spain, who have hardly impressed in the tournament.
Manchester City midfielder David Silva is mindful of the hostile atmosphere expected to confront them at the 81,000 capacity arena.
“Without a shadow of doubt, Russia is a wonderful country,” said Silva at the pre-match press conference.
“I was here 1,000 days to the tournament and a lot of times. I know they have a lot of people and fans but we also know that the football match is decided on the pitch.”
The Spaniards topped Group B with a record of one win and two draws and will face another side that should give them a close test. Against less-fancied sides Iran and Morocco, Spain struggled to find breakthroughs, beating the former by the odd goal and rescuing a point in the final minutes against the latter.
“We are here to correct our mistakes. Sometimes these teams park the bus in front of goal and it is hard to handle it so we need to evaluate each game as they come. It can be very hard to score,” added Silva.
Spain manager Fernando Hierro also buttressed Silva’s point in admitting his team’s previous mistakes, and hopes that they will make lesser errors in their bid to progress to the quarter finals.
“We know what Russia represents and we know who we are ourselves,” begun Hierro.
“In football, you make mistakes and the team that makes the least mistakes progress. We have our strengths and weakness just like any team, any squad, but we are going to be intelligent.
“We need to analyse them (Russia) which we’ve done. We know what we need to solve and we are prepared for it,” added the Real Madrid legend.
Spain were eliminated, rather controversially by co-hosts South Korea in 2002 and Fernando Hierro (captain of that side) will be hoping to steer away from such controversies in Sunday’s round of sixteen clash with Russia here in Moscow.
Fisayo Dairo reporting from Moscow