July 7 (UPI) — Russia and Croatia needed well over 90 minutes to decide a World Cup quarterfinal, with the Croatians winning in penalty kicks Saturday in Sochi, Russia.
Croatia became the second team in history to win back-to-back penalty shootouts at the World Cup. FC Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic netted the final goal of the shootout, beating Russia keeper Igor Akinfeev to his right.
“This was not a beautiful game, but it was a fight,” Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic told reporters. “It was a battle … we were lucky, thank God.”
Russia broke out to a 1-0 lead in the 31st minute. Midfielder Denis Cheryshev used his left boot to rip a shot into the near post netting, beating Croatian keeper Danijel Subasic.
Croatia became only the second side to win back-to-back penalty shootouts in FIFA World Cup history!
Watch every penalty 👇 pic.twitter.com/Dya3dBXkd4
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 7, 2018
It didn’t take long for Croatia to even up. Andrej Kramaric tied the score at 1-1 in the 39th minute. That goal came after Mario Mandzukic chipped a pass deep into the box. Kramaric headed home the offer from the forward, beating Akinfeev for the first time in regulation.
The game stayed locked at 1-1 through the final whistle, prompting two periods of extra time.
Luca Modric took a corner kick in the 100th minute. The ball floated onto the head of Domagoj Vida, who pushed it through traffic to give Croatia a late lead.
But that edge wouldn’t last long either. Russia equalized in the final frame of extra time. Mario Figueira Fernandes put in that goal by heading in a free kick from Alan Dzagoev.
Subasic was hobbled in the second half with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, but he was able to stay in the game and remained strong between the posts. He blocked Russia’s first penalty kick by putting up his left hand to get a piece of an attempt from Fyodor Smolov.
Croatia’s Marcelo Brozovic gave his team a lead by making his attempt from the penalty spot. Dzagoev then burried his attempt, tying the shootout at 1-1. Akinfeev came up strong by blocking a shot from Croatia’s Mateo Kovacic on the next attempt. But Fernandes followed with Russia’s second miss of the shootout.
Modric got a 2-1 advantage for Croatia. Sergie Ignashevich made Russia’s next attempt, but Vida made Croatia’s next attempt to hold the lead. Daler Kuzyayev buried Russia’s final attempt, before Rakitic netted the game-winner.
France and Belgium battle in a World Cup semifinal at 2 p.m. Tuesday in St. Petersburg. The winner of that game faces England or Croatia in the 2018 World Cup final. Croatia takes on England in the other semifinal matchup at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Moscow.
“We expect a very difficult, tight and demanding match every match at this World Cup,” Modric said. We have to enjoy the moment and then from tomorrow we have to prepare for England. We have one day less for preparation.”