Croatia will meet England in only their second-ever World Cup final as they edged past hosts Russia 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw after extra-time on Saturday evening.
The hosts had the perfect start as Denis Cheryshev scored an a great goal from range, before Andrej Kramarić equalised only eight minutes later with an easy header. With neither side able to find a winner in normal time, the game went the distance and Domagoj Vida found the net with a header from a corner. Russia were not done there though as Mario Fernandes equalised with an expert header with only five minutes left on the clock.
Fyodor Smolov and Fernandes were unfortunate in the resultant penalty shoot-out as Ivan Rakitić netted the winning spot-kick.
Cheryshev cannon opens the scoring
Artem Dzyuba then had the opportunity of the game as he latched onto Šime Vrsaljko’s poor clearance but he was crowded out before he could get a shot off. Ante Rebić then headed straight over the bar as both sides enjoyed an attacking start. Ivan Perišić was also guilty of spurning a great opportunity as he glanced Vrsaljko’s cross wide.
Russia did create some chances though as they were supported by a buoyant home crowd and were soon in the lead. Cheryshev played a great one-two with Artem Dzyuba before letting fly from 20 yards and seeing his shot crash into the top corner.
Kramaric capitalises on sloppy defending
Despite their historic strike, the Russians were soon let down by some slack defending as Croatia struck their equaliser. Mario Mandžukić was given too much space in the penalty area and crossed to Kramarić who nodded in from only yards out to equalise.
Perišić also did brilliantly as Croatia looked for a late winner. He turned on the penalty spot and aimed for the bottom corner only to see the ball strike the post. Aleksandr Erokhin, who had replaced Aleksandr Samedov, then went close for the hosts with a header but the game looked destined for extra-time.
Vida nets in extra-time
Fyodor Smolov looked to have won a penalty in extra-time as he appeared to be taken down by Dejan Lovren in the penalty area. However, the referee was unmoved and the Russian penalty appeals fell on deaf ears.
There was eventually a goal but it did not go the way that the Russian supporters desired with Vida heading home. Meeting an excellent Luka Modrić delivery from a corner, the Besiktas defender nodded into the back of the net, sending the Croatian fans into ecstasy.
Fernandes equaliser in vain as he misses from the spot
Although, a Russian equaliser then allowed a greater noise to cascade out of the Fisht Stadium. The hosts won a free-kick and Alan Dzagoev’s pinpoint delivery was met expertly by Fernandes. He powered the ball beyond Subašić to send the game to penalties.
Smolov missed his kick, with Zobnin making no mistake. Dzagoev then stepped up and slotted into the bottom corner as Mateo Kovacic then saw his effort saved.
Goalscorer Fernandes also saw his penalty stopped, with Modric then earning his country the advantage. Iganshevic, Vida and Kuzyayev then all scored, with the decisive penalty being bestowed to Rakitic. The Barcelona man was unfased and sent Akinfeev the wrong way to secure Croatia their place in the semi-finals of the World Cup.
The Russian supporters will be truly heartbroken that their team have been eliminated from the World Cup. However, they should really be proud of their country’s efforts. They went toe-to-toe with a quality Croatia side and could well have been in the semi-finals had it not been for bad luck from the spot.
Overall however, Croatia deserve their place and will meet England next Wednesday for a place in the final.
Russia: Akinfeev (6); Fernandes (7), Kutepov (6), Ignashevich (6), Kudriashov (6); Cheryshev (7) (Smolov (6), 67′), Kuzyaev (6), Zobnin (6), Golovin (7) (Dzagoev (6), 102′); Samedov (5) (Erokhin (6), 54′), Dzyuba (6) (Gazinsky (6), 79′).
Croatia: Subasic (6); Vrsaljko (7) (Corluka (N/A), 97′), Strinic (Pivaric (6), 74′), Lovren (7), Vida (7); Rakitic (7), Modric (7), Perisic (6) (Brozovic (6), 63′); Kramaric (8) (Kovacic (6), 97′), Mandzukic (6), Rebic (6).
Goals: Cheryshev (31′), Kramaric (39′), Vida (100′), Fernandes (115′)
Referee: Sandro Meira Ricci
Yellow Cards: Lovren (31′), Strinic (39′), Vida (102)’, Gazinsky (109′), Pivaric (114′)
Red Cards: N/A
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