Croatia Break Russian Hearts, Win Thrilling Q/Final on Penalties

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Demola Ojo

Russia’s fairy-tale run to the quarter finals of the 2018 World Cup was ended in dramatic fashion by Croatia who prevailed on penalties for a second consecutive time at this competition.

After 120 minutes of drama, suspense, and tension both teams were locked 2-2 with the lottery of penalties the only way to separate them.

Both Russia and Croatia headed into this match in similar fashion, earning penalty kick victories after 1-1 draws against Spain and Denmark respectively. And despite Croatia enjoying most of the possession, they struggled to subdue a Russia side full of energy and commitment.

However, Croatia reached the World Cup semi-finals for the second time in their history with Ivan Rakitic again the hero in a 4-3 penalty shoot-out victory.

Having slotted home the winning kick against Denmark in the last 16, Rakitic held his nerve to convert from the spot, with Mario Fernandes going from hero to villain by missing from 12 yards after his 115th-minute header had made it 2-2 deep into extra time.

After ending the home side’s incredible run, Zlatko Dalic’s side will aim to at least go one better than the famous 1998 vintage, who finished third in France, when they meet England at the Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday.

Denis Cheryshev got Russia off to a brilliant start by marking his return to the starting line-up with yet another contender for goal of the tournament after his stunning efforts against Saudi Arabia and Egypt in the group stage, but Andrej Kramaric equalised just eight minutes later.

Domagoj Vida headed Luka Modric’s corner home 10 minutes into the first extra period, only for Fernandes, the Brazil-born defender who was only granted Russia citizenship by president Vladimir Putin two years ago, to keep Russia’s hopes alive in a dramatic finish.

However, it was not to be for the resilient hosts, with goalkeeper Danijel Subasic saving Fedor Smolov’s penalty and Fernandes firing wide before Rakitic kept his composure to send Croatia through.