Croatia through as hosts pay the penalty

  • Croatia defeat Russia 4-3 in shoot-out (aet: 2-2)
  • Vatreni through to face England in the last four

Croatia will face England in the semi-finals on Wednesday

World Cup hosts Russia have exited the 2018 tournament in dramatic circumstances after losing 4-3 on post-match penalties to Croatia in a quarterfinal at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi on Saturday.

Twenty years on from Croatia first taking the FIFA World Cup™ by storm, Zlatko Dalic’s team have booked the country’s place in the semi-finals for the second time in their history. Having emerged victorious on penalties after a gruelling encounter, the Balkan side have also got a monkey off their back by ending their hoodoo against World Cup hosts, having been knocked out by France in 1998 and lost to Brazil in the Opening Match of the 2014 edition.

The match finished 2-2 after extra time, with Denis Cheryshev and Mario Fernandes on target for Russia, while Croatia’s goals were netted by Andrej Kramaric and Domagoj Vida.

Roared on by a boisterous crowd at the Fisht Stadium, the Russians sought to press high up the pitch early on. Yet despite this pressure and the din, which rose to deafening levels every time the hosts sprang forward on the break, the Croats refused to be cowed, continuing to play their game and giving as good as they got.

The Blazers’ will go on to face England in the second semifinal, set for Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday, July 11..

Russia enjoyed a bright opening few minutes, but it was Croatia who soon took charge of the game and Ante Rebic forced Igor Akinfeev into a save at his near post after breaking free down the right flank in the sixth minute.

On 11 minutes Croatia blew a great chance to open the scoring, as Sime Vrsaljko’s cross from the right gave Mario Mandzukic a clear scoring opportunity, but the veteran striker fluffed his shot completely.

The ‘Golden Eagles’ opened the scoring with their first effort on target, and what a shot it was: rising star Denis Cheryshev exchanged the ball with Artem Dzyuba and then unleashed an unstoppable long-range effort which crashed into the top corner in the 31st minute.

The Blazers’ responded in the 39th minute and levelled the game at 1-1. Mandzukic broke free down the left of the penalty area set up Andrej Kramaric for a stooping header which he directed beyond the left hand of Akinfeev.

Fifteen minutes into the second stanza Croatia almost claimed the lead, as a scramble in the penalty area ended with a low shot from Ivan Perisic which struck the inside of Akinfeev’s right-hand post and bounced out to safety along the goal line.

In the 72nd minute Russia created a great chance to get back in front, as right-back Mario Fernandes picked out substitute Alseksandr Yerokhin, but the attacker couldn’t keep his header down.

The remainder of the regulation time passed without incident and the match went into an extra half hour. Eleven minutes into the first half of extra time, Croatia put themselves ahead through defender Domagoj Vida, whose header from a corner kick passed through a bunch of players and found the back of the net.

Russia pushed hard for a reply and in the 115th minute a free kick from Alan Dzagoev picked out Mario Fernandes, who guided a glancing header into the back of the net to make it 2-2 and send the game to penalties.

Yet Fernandes went from hero to zero in the shootout, as his miss with Russia’s third kick was ultimately decisive, allowing Ivan Rakitic to score the final penalty and send Croatia into a first semifinal since their ‘golden generation’ in 1998.

Russia (1) (1) 2 (Cheryshev 31’, Fernandes 115’)
Croatia (1) (1) 2 (Kramaric 39’, Vida 101’)

After extra time – Croatia won 4-3 on penalties

Russia: Akinfeev, Fernandes, Ignashevich, Kutepov, Kudryashov, Zbonin, Kuzyayev, Samedov (Yerokhin 54’), Golovin (Dzagoev 102’), Cheryshev (Smolov 67’), Dzyuba (Gazinsky 79’)

Croatia: Subasic, Vrsaljko (Corluka 97’), Lovren, Vida, Strinic (Pivaric 74’), Rakitic, Modric, Rebic, Kramaric (Kovacic 88’), Perisic (Brozovic 63’), Mandukic

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