Croa­tia ends Rus­sia’s run, ad­vances to semis

Ex­tra-time goals traded be­fore shootout clincher

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - SPORTS -

Nyet this time.

Although Rus­sia made it fur­ther at this year’s World Cup than most any­one ex­pected, it was Croa­tia that ad­vanced to the semi­fi­nals with a 4-3 shootout vic­tory Sat­ur­day fol­low­ing a 2-2 draw.

The over­achiev­ing hosts, the low­est ranked team in the tour­na­ment at No. 70, were try­ing to make it to the World Cup semi­fi­nals for the first time since the Soviet Union fin­ished fourth at the 1966 tour­na­ment in Eng­land.

Even Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin was taken in by the host na­tion’s sur­pris­ing run, at least ac­cord­ing to Rus­sia coach Stanislav Cherch­esov.

“Putin called me dur­ing the day, and he called me right

now,” Cherch­esov said. “He con­grat­u­lated us on a very good game. He said what we showed on the field was great. I told him we were dis­ap­pointed. He said we should have our eyes open and make the next steps.”

The Croats hadn’t ad­vanced to the semi­fi­nals at the World Cup since 1998, when the coun­try made its first ap­pear­ance. Croa­tia will next play Eng­land in the semi­fi­nals on Wed­nes­day in Mos­cow.

With the crowd si­lenced fol­low­ing an ex­tra-time header from Croa­tia de­fender Do­magoj Vida in the 101st minute, Rus­sia de­fender Mario Fer­nan­des scored with his own header in the 115th to send the match to yet an­other penalty shootout.

Fer­nan­des, who was born in Brazil but re­jected a chance to play for that coun­try’s na­tional team in 2011, sent his penalty kick wide of the net in the shootout, giv­ing Croa­tia the ad­van­tage.

Both goal­keep­ers made early saves in the shootout, with an in­jured Dani­jel Suba­sic stop­ping the open­ing shot from Fy­o­dor Smolov. Igor Ak­in­feev later blocked an at­tempt from Ma­teo Ko­vacic.

At 1-1, Fer­nan­des missed his shot — only the sec­ond player to miss in any of the four shootouts at this year’s World Cup.

The teams then traded two scores each be­fore Ivan Rakitic calmly con­verted the win­ning penalty.

“We should have fin­ished the job be­fore penal­ties but maybe it’s writ­ten in the stars we have to go through the ex­tra drama,” said Luka Mo­dric, whose penalty bounced off Suba­sic’s hand and the post be­fore en­ter­ing the other side of the net.

De­nis Ch­ery­shev gave Rus­sia the lead in reg­u­la­tion time with a long-range shot into the up­per cor­ner in the 31st minute. Croa­tia equal­ized with An­drej Kra­maric’s header near half­time.

“I left ev­ery­thing on the field and un­for­tu­nately we were un­lucky,” Rus­sia mid­fielder Ro­man Zob­nin said. “We gave ev­ery­thing we could.”

It was the sec­ond straight time both teams played in a penalty shootout. Rus­sia beat Spain 4-3 and Croa­tia de­feated Den­mark 3-2 in the round of 16.

Ar­gentina in 1990 had been the last team to win con­sec­u­tive World Cup shootouts. The de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons at the time de­feated Yu­goslavia in the quar­ter­fi­nals and Italy in the semi­fi­nals that year, which also made Italy the last host na­tion to lose on penal­ties be­fore Sat­ur­day.

The vic­tory over­whelmed Croa­tia coach Zlatko Dalic, who cried af­ter Rakitic’s win­ning penalty.

“It wasn’t a beau­ti­ful game, but it was a bat­tle,” Dalic said. “We were lucky. I was con­cen­trat­ing through­out the match, but af­ter that penalty it came burst­ing out of me.”

Moot mid­field

Mo­dric and Rakitic were de­ci­sive in the shootout but didn’t play up to ex­pec­ta­tions in reg­u­la­tion and ex­tra time, un­able to cre­ate many sig­nif­i­cant chances for Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzu­kic up front.

Both play­ers were beaten by Ch­ery­shev on the play that led to the open­ing goal for the Rus­sians.

Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

Ivan Rakitic cel­e­brates scor­ing the win­ning penalty to give Croa­tia a quarterfinal vic­tory over the host team, Rus­sia, on Sat­ur­day. The Croats ad­vance to face Eng­land in the semi­fi­nals on Wed­nes­day.

Adrian den­nis / Getty images

rus­sia’s mario fer­nan­des, left, re­acts af­ter miss­ing a penalty kick dur­ing the team’s shootout with Croa­tia on Sat­ur­day.

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