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08 Jul 2018

Russia 2-2 Croatia: 5 things we learned

Russia 2-2 Croatia: 5 things we learned

Croatia reached the semi-finals as they ended Russia's Cinderella run with a gritty victory on penalties.

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Whilst Croatia's impressive World Cup run continues, Russia's has ended. 

But it didn't come easy in this quarter-final match for the Croatians. Russia fought valiantly, scoring two splendid goals and taking the game to the lottery of penalties. It's the first time since 1998 that Vatreni have reached the World Cup semi-finals.

In a contest that won't soon be forgotten by fans of either side, Croatia and Russia left everything on the pitch in Sochi. Exhaustion was clearly visible, but no more than the heart displayed by both teams.

The crushing setback ended Russia's improbable run to the quarter-finals, despite being the lowest-ranked team in the competition, but restored their fans' fate in the national team.

Back to their 4-2-3-1 alignment, Stanislav Cherchesov's side opened the scoring in the 31st minute when Denis Cheryshev delivered a thunderous left-footed strike into the top corner. 

However, Croatia equalised eight minutes later when they took advantage of some poor Russian defending on the wing as Andrej Kramaric headed home a perfect cross from Mario Mandzukic.

Though Croatia seemed to control the match (64 percent possession) as expected, they could not convert further until extra-time, when Domagoj Vida headed a corner that bounced in on 101 minutes. 

But keeping with their Cinderella status, Russia equalised in dramatic fashion as Brazilian-born defender Mario Fernandes headed home a brilliantly placed set-piece cross by Alan Dzagoev.

However, Russia's World Cup dream ended on penalties as Fedor Smolov's opening attempt was stopped by the hand of Danijel Subasic and a shank by Fernandes put the hosts in a hole. And for a second consecutive contest, Ivan Rakitic delivered the decisive score from the mark to send Croatia on to face England in Wednesday's semi-final in Moscow.