Croatia dump Russia out in penalties
Croatia dump Russia out in penalties

Croatia dump Russia out in penalties; advance to semis

ANI | Updated: Jul 08, 2018 04:55 IST

Sochi [Russia], July 8 (ANI): After 120 minutes of nerve-wracking drama in Sochi's Fisht Stadium, Croatia's golden generation eliminated host Russia from the FIFA World Cup 2018 in the penalty shootout to book their place in the semi-finals for the first time since 1998.
Having progressed to the quarter-finals with a penalty shootout win over Denmark in the Round-of-16, Croatia became only the second team in World Cup history to win consecutive shootouts since Argentina in 1990.
The home team drew first blood on 31 minutes, as after a neat interplay with Artem Dzuyba, Denis Cheryshev, Russia's top scorer in the World Cup, unleashed a world beater from beyond 25 yards, leaving Danijel Subasic, Croatia's penalty shootout hero from the Round-of-16, a mere spectator with his curling effort sailing into the top corner.
Their lead lasted for just eight minutes, however, with Croatia equalising with a rather soft goal from a counter charge led by Mario Mandzukic.
With no significant pressure from any of Russia's defenders, Mandzukic made his way to the Russian byline, squaring the ball to an unmarked Andrej Kramaric, who made no mistake from point blank range to beat Igor Akinfeev, thus levelling the scores at the brink of half-time.
Less than 15 minutes into the restart, Croatia were presented with a golden opportunity to take the lead in the game, although, Inter Milan's Ivan Perisic only managed to hit the post from eight yards out.
After a scramble in the Croatian box, Perisic collected the ball and wriggled out a yard for himself to fire a low shot. However, the ball ricocheted off the inside of the post and ran across the face of the goal before being cleared.
That was the closest either of the teams managed to come to scoring in the second half and with the scores still tied, an additional 30 minutes were enforced.
Russia's indecisiveness in defence led to them conceding another soft goal on the 100th minute mark. Centre-back Domagoj Vida met a corner delivery and his effort evaded two Russian players and sneaked past Akinfeev to hand Croatia the lead.
The goal from the corner was the 14th of the 20 goals Russia have conceded in World Cup football, highlighting their ineffectiveness in defending set pieces.
However, the drama was far from over, as five minutes from elimination, the hosts won a free-kick at the edge of the Croatian box, with right-back Mario Fernandes expertly heading in substitute Alan Dzagoev's delivery to draw the scores level, with a place in the semi-finals now to be decided following a penalty shootout.
Russian No. 10 Fyodor Smolov got proceedings underway and his weak shot from 12 yards was kept out by Subasic.
The next two spot kicks were converted before Mateo Kovacic's effort was saved at full stretch after a brilliant dive from Akinfeev.
Up stepped Russia's extra time hero, Fernandes to level the scores yet again. However, he drifted his shot wide of the mark to hand Croatia the advantage, with Luka Modric fortunate to see his penalty bulge the side netting after Akinfeev deflected it into the post.
With all subsequent penalties converted by both teams, the onus was on Rakitic to do the same and book Croatia's date with England for the semis. Cool as ice, the Barcelona midfielder dispatched the decisive penalty into the net to send the Croatian players and fans into frenzy.
Croatia will now face off with England on Wednesday in the semi-final, with the winner set to meet one of either France or Belgium in the final of the FIFA World Cup 2018. (ANI)