Croatia beats Russia on penalties to advance to semis

Adjust Comment Print

"I'm very pleased at how the team played the whole World Cup, how it showed it character and worked to the maximum", said Russian Federation coach Stanislav Cherchesov.

"Putin called me during the day, and he called me right now", Cherchesov said.

"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 inspirational playmaker Luka Modric. I told him we were disappointed.

"We expect a very hard and tough, tight, demanding match, every match at this World Cup is like that", Modric said at a post-match press conference, broadcast via FIFATV.

The Croats hadn't advanced to the semifinals at the World Cup since 1998, when the country made its first appearance.

Standing between Croatia and a semi-final berth is a Russian team running on adrenaline and buoyed by a partisan home crowd, as will be the case in Sochi on Sunday morning (AEST).

Centre-backs then were successful in the fourth round, Vida answering after Russia's Sergei Ignashevich found the net, and though Daler Kuzyaev kept Russian Federation alive, Rakitic - who also won the shootout against Denmark in the last round - put Croatia through. Even though Igor Akinfeev saved Vedran Corulka's shot, Lika Modric, Vida and Ivan Rakitic were on target. But Fernandes followed with Russia's second miss of the shootout.

The teams then traded two scores each before Ivan Rakitic calmly converted the winning penalty.

Denis Cheryshev struck a stunning opener from distance to give the hosts the lead in the 31st minute but Croatia equalised through Andrej Kramaric just eight minutes later. However, Andrej Kramarić equalized the scoreline with a header from Mario Mandžukić's assist in the 39th minute.

Croatia's win sees them emulate their 1998 side by reaching the World Cup's last four, and on Wednesday will face England at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium for a place in the final.

"We have two matches to play, we are very motivated, we will give our all". The Real Madrid man showed nerves of steel in the penalty shootout, scoring his spot-kick despite having one saved by Kasper Schmichael in the second half.

2 - Croatia are just the second side to progress on a penalty shootout in consecutive knockout games in a World Cup tournament after Argentina in 1990 (v Yugoslavia and Italy). And they had also scored in each of their last eight World Cup Games, a run that stretched all the way back to 2006 and a goalless draw with Japan.

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. "We do not want to stop, we will try to play our best game", coach Zlatko Dalic said, adding that "many players are a bit injured" after the grueling game.

"It wasn't a handsome game, but it was a battle", Dalic said.