Published: Wed, July 04, 2018
Sport | By Ruben Hill

Another giant falls as Russian Federation eliminate Spain

Another giant falls as Russian Federation eliminate Spain

Russian Federation hung on in extra time to beat Spain on penalties in a shock result that sends the hosts through to the last eight of World Cup 2018. Spain played as cautiously as any team at the World Cup.

When Russia's coach Stanislav Cherchesov told a battery of journalists on Saturday that anyone can be a god if he tries, he did not know that his words would inspire his own goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev to produce an awe-inspiring performance that would take the home nation to the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in 48 years. Koke's miss gave Russian Federation the upper hand and Akinfeev sent the Luzhniki Stadium into bedlam as he saved Iago Aspas' penalty with his feet.

They resisted their lofty rivals in Moscow, rebounding from Sergei Ignashevich's 12-minute own goal and responding through Artem Dzyuba's spot-kick not long before half-time.

In overtime, Spain has created a few more chances, but Akinfeev played correctly.

At times, it seemed as if the Russians were going to be killed by a hundred passes as La Rojo displayed a mastery of the ball for which the two-time European champion is renowned.

Fyodor Smolov, who surprisingly replaced Dzyuba on 65, curled well wide in the final moments of regular time and though Spain marginally upped the tempo when play resumed, Koke lashed wildly from range and Aspas was crowded out.

Croatia leveled just three minutes later after two deflections cannoned the ball into the path of the grateful Mario Mandzukic, who drove it into the net.

After Denis Cheryshev converted his spot kick, Akinfeev stopped Iago Aspas's effort with his legs to spark mass celebrations in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

On the other hand, Spain, who will be playing their first World Cup knockout match since 2010 final, will be hoping their big guns deliver on the big day. We are leaving this World Cup without losing a single match, and that is a fact. Nacho came in for Dani Carvajal at right back and Koke was given a chance in midfield in place of Thiago Alcantara.

Spain stopped Russia's European Championship run in 2008 - the country's best tournament performance since the end of the Soviet Union - and also played to a 3-3 friendly draw past year, though one in which Spain didn't field a full-strength team.

Jordi Alba and Costa missed efforts after the restart as Spain tried to increase their tempo.

Aleksandr Golovin and Denis Cheryshev also scored for Russian Federation before Sergio Ramos converted one for Spain.

But you wouldn't have guessed it, as the striker coolly slotted the penalty into the bottom-left corner of the goal in the 41st minute to the delight of the home crowd's booming cheers. Yuri Zhirkov was also recalled to the left-side of defence while Daler Kuzyaev and Golovin returned to the midfield.

But despite being blessed with a wealth of talent Spain has also failed to overwhelm opponents in this tournament, drawing with Portugal and Morocco in the group stage.

It gave Russian Federation its greatest win for 10 years, since Akinfeev was in goal for an extra-time victory over the Netherlands in a European Championship quarterfinal.

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