Croatia Bests Russia, Advances to World Cup Semifinals
Although Russia made it further at this year’s World Cup than almost 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.
“I left everything on the field and unfortunately we were unlucky,” Russia midfielder Roman Zobnin said. “We gave everything we could.”
The Croats hadn’t advanced this far 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. The English team defeated Sweden 2-0.
With the crowd silenced following an extra-time goal from Croatia defender Domagoj Vida in the 101st minute, Russia defender Mario Fernandes scored 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, 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 Fedor 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 scored the winning penalty.
Denis Cheryshev gave Russia the lead with a shot into the upper corner in the 31st minute. Croatia equalized with Andrej Kramaric’s header near halftime.
It was the second straight time both teams played in a 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. It 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.