The dream is over for Russia as they fall on penalties to Croatia after another stunning effort on home soil.
The fans will be proud of their team yet lamenting a lost chance at a World Cup semi-final after the teams were locked at 2-2 after 120 minutes in Sochi. Penalties were required to separate the teams and it was the sure-footed Croatians who held their nerve and completed their own fairytale run to the semi-finals.
The Russians began enthusiastically, sitting off the Croatians and countering with venom. Denis Cheryshev scored his fourth goal of the tournament in stunning fashion with a bomb from outside the area after half and hour, before Andrej Kramaric levelled things up with a precise header just a few minutes later.
Locked at half-time, the match continued in the same style early in the second period with Croatia dominating possession and the Russians looking for chances on the break. Extra time loomed with neither team able to make the breakthrough and it took 100 minutes before Domagoj Vida found the net to put Croatia in the lead and seemingly through to the semi-finals.
However, the Russians had one more dramatic moment to share as Mario Fernandes scored with just five minutes of extra-time remaining. The crowd tried to ride the Russians home to victory and if not for some heroics by Danijel Subasic in the Croation goal, they may have snatched the win.
Penalties seemed more likely and Croatia were perfect from the spot while hero Fernandes blazed wide and opened the door for them. Luka Modric’s penalty was shaky but it found the mark and off the back of Ivan Rakitic’s final strike, Croatia moved their way into a semi-final with England.
What a match, what a tournament and what a win for Croatia.
Stuart Thomas is a sports writer and educator who made the jump from Roar Guru to Expert in 2017. An ex-trainee professional golfer, his sporting passions are broad with particular interests in football, AFL and rugby league. His love of sport is only matched by his passion for gardening and self-sustainability.
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