Although Russia made it further at this year’s FIFA World Cup than most anyone expected, it was Croatia that on Saturday advanced to the semi-finals with a 4-3 shoot-out victory following a 2-2 draw.
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 shoot-out.
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 shoot-out, giving Croatia the advantage.
Both goalkeepers made early saves in the shoot-out, 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 shoot-outs at this year’s World Cup.
The teams then traded two scores each before Ivan Rakitic converted the winning penalty.
“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 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.”
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.”
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