Croatia win Russian roulette

Croatia down hosts Russia on penalties to set up England clash

While it was never a classic, this game will be warmly remembered by the Croatians for their heroic display as they ground out a 2-2 draw to win 4-3 in the penalty shoot-out.

This Russia team - the lowest-ranked side in the tournament at 70 in the world rankings - wasn't supposed to be in the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, competing in a quarterfinal against Croatia.

When Russia finally bowed out, shortly before midnight local time with defeat on penalties against Croatia in their quarter-final, they were departing the festival a good five hours of playing time later than many had forecast. The English team defeated Sweden 2-0.

Coming into this quarterfinal, Croatia had scored in its previous eight World Cup matches - a new record for the national team - and had never lost against Saturday's opponents, drawing twice and winning once in their three previous encounters.

Now this Brazilian-Russian - whose new country lasted a day longer in the World Cup than the old one did - had sent Russia and Croatia to penalty kicks for a second consecutive game.

In the 31st minute of the first half, Russian star Denis Cheryshev scored a belter to provide the first lead against Croatian side.

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Cherchesov's men were unable to hold on until half-time, though, as Mario Mandzukic advanced down the left to set up the chance for an unmarked Kramaric to head home and silence Sochi. For Croatia, the win keeps their hopes alive of going further than their best ever show off a third-place finish which came in 1998.

They dominated the match, even if Russian Federation contributed to another fantastic occasion in what has been an outstanding World Cup.

And nestle is exactly what it did when Cheryshev broke the deadlock, curling a wonderful left footed shot into the top corner after playing an inch flawless one-two with Artem Dzyuba.

The Villarreal winger replaces Yuri Zhirkov, who has been struggling with a calf injury, in the only change made by coach Stanislav Cherchesov following the penalty shootout win over Spain in the last 16. Croatia, a shadow of the team which cruised through their group with maximum points, went ahead when Vida met a corner with a weak downward header which found its way through two sets of legs and rolled into the net.

After a 1-1 draw after the regular time, Vida headed in a dramatic corner in the 101st minute but he was booked a yellow card for taking off his jersey for celebration.

However, it was not to be for the resilient hosts, with goalkeeper Danijel Subasic saving Fedor Smolov's penalty and Fernandes firing wide before Rakitic sent Croatia through.

Kramaric had an overhead kick gathered by Akinfeev shortly after the break and Perisic was then inches away from putting Croatia in front as he saw his strike come back off the inside of a post.

In the post-match lottery Croatia have missed only Kovacic - Russia responded with Smolov misses and Fernandez.



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