Sunday, 19 August, 2018

Russia's World Cup dream ends with Croatia shootout defeat

Shannon Reynolds | 08 July, 2018, 02:57

After France, Belgium and England all clinched a spot in the World Cup semis, Croatia joined them on Saturday after beating host Russian Federation 4-3 in penalty kicks.

The lowest-ranked side entering the competition, the hosts had taken a first-half lead though Denis Cheryshev's blast from distance, only for Croatia to equalise through Andrej Kramaric soon after.

But then, with just five minutes to go, Mario Fernandes played the role of hero, heading home a set piece to make it 2-2.

The hosts are underdogs against a Croatia side that beat Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland in the group stages before overcoming Denmark on penalties in the round of 16.

His hero status, however, lasted all of 20 minutes as he missed a decisive penalty in the shootout, allowing Ivan Rakitic to step up and slot home the victor.

Croatia, for whom Andrej Kramaric and Domagoj Vida had earlier found the net, advance to their first World Cup semi-final since 1998.

In France '98, the hosts knocked Croatia out in the last four en-route to clinching the title, while four years ago Brazil edged them 2-1 in the tournament opener.

"We should have finished the job before penalties, but maybe it's written in the stars that we have to go through the extra drama", said inspirational playmaker Luka Modric.

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There is a comprehensive argument that Luca Modric has been the best player at the World Cup.

Cheryshev collected the ball near the halfway line, exchanged passes with Artem Dzyuba and curled a superb 25-meter shot past the transfixed Subasic.

Croatia nearly took the lead in the 60th minute but Perisic's could only watch his right-foot shot from inside the box hit the post and rebound out instead of in.

But slack defending allowed Croatia to level eight minutes later.

After earning a corner himself, centre-back Vida got on the end of Modric's cross to head it down and somehow through two Russian defenders and Corluka into the corner.

Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic once again came up big, making some big saves in regulation, one after getting injured, and saving Russia's first penalty kick.

Croatia coach, Zlatko Dalic probably won't shuffle his starting XI much.

For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.

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