Published: Tue, July 10, 2018
Sport | By Billy Aguilar

Croatia beats Russian Federation on penalties to reach World Cup semi-finals

Croatia beats Russian Federation on penalties to reach World Cup semi-finals

Brazilian-born Mario Fernandes had kept Russia's dream alive when he headed home in the 115th minute to level the scores and force penalties, but he and Fedor Smolov both failed to convert their spot-kicks in Sochi.

Russia's supporters, low on expectation of what their national team might achieve at their own World Cup, have certainly seen more of it in action than they anticipated. "We have to improve that element as we conceded there today", Modric said, referring to Russia's late 2-2 equalizer which sent up the penalties. "He congratulated us on a very good game. It will be a battle again but I trust us, I have belief in us".

Croatia were on a four-match unbeaten run going into the game - their longest run to date in the competition.

Ten minutes into the first period the Croatians went in front when Domagoj Vida headed home from a corner by Luka Modrić, who was making his 10th appearance at the World Cup and in doing so, became his country's second-highest-capped player at the tournament behind Dario Šimić.

Ivan Rakitic scored the victor from the spot as Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev dived in the opposite direction. Croatia will next play England in the semifinals on Wednesday in Moscow. "We dominated in extra time and were the better team, we should have finished the job before penalties - but maybe it is written in the stars that we had to go through the extra drama".

Croatia, who beat Denmark on penalties in the round of 16, are only the second team in World Cup history - after Argentina in 1990 - to win two penalty shootouts in the same edition of the tournament.

The lead didn't last long, however, as Andrej Kramaric equalised just eight minutes later.

England, France and Belgium have booked their places in the semis so there's only one spot remaining and Croatia and Russian Federation will fight for it tonight.

The tournament in Russian Federation is seen as the last chance for the gifted generation of Modric (32), Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic (32), Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic (30) and Inter forward Ivan Perisic (29) to win a major title.

By then the tears of Dalic, which he cried in joy and relief when it was all over Saturday, will also have dried.

It was Cheryshev's fourth goal in his five matches of this World Cup.

Denis Cheryshev got Russian Federation 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.

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