MOSCOW, June 1, 2018 – As if football-frenzied Russians did not have enough to celebrate, their own much-derided team has reached the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup after taking down Spain via a penalty shootout.
These finals have, by common assent, been the most enjoyable in years from both football and staging perspectives. The Russians might thus be considered due their reward from a 4-3 shootout triumph after a 1-1 extra-time draw.
Spain may also be considered authors of their own downfall from the hasty sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui three days before their first match to the ultimate failure to capitalise on their technical and tactical superiority against limited, albeit highly-committed, hosts.
A penalty shootout is, as stand-in boss Fernando Hierro noted sadly afterwards, a lottery. Even, appropriately in these circumstances, football’s equivalent of Russian roulette. Thus Spain followed the sad homeward trail of Germany, Leo Messi’s Argentina and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.