Croatia will face England in World Cup semifinals after beating hosts Russia on penalties

Croatia will face England in World Cup semifinals after beating hosts Russia on penalties

Croatia set up a World Cup semi-final with England after winning 4-3 on penalties against hosts Russia.

Russia and Croatia were playing for the chance to take on England in the semi-finals after their win against Sweden earlier on Saturday, and Croatia might have considered themselves favourites before an attritional slugfest.


Both sides failed to settle into the match as the significance of the match appeared to dawn on both sets of players.

Just as we were starting to settle into a tight first period, the game exploded into life in stunning circumstances.

Out of nowhere, Russia took the lead with a goal of the very highest quality and one worthy of the magnitude of the game.

Denis Cheryshev exchanged passed with Dzuyba before curling a left foot finish into the top corner from fully 25 yards. Subasic did not move.

The lead for Russia only last eight minutes though as Croatia fought back quickly and in clinical fashion.

Mario Mandzukic was allowed the freedom of Sochi on the left and had an age to pick out Kramaric in the box, who nodded home with the minimum of fuss.

Awful defending from Russia but credit to Croatia who produced an incisive attack to pick apart a shaky home defence.

Russia looked tired after the break as they sank deeper and deeper in the hope of hanging onto to the 1-1 score line for as long as possible.

The Croats were dominate in possession during the 2nd period and should have taken the lead on the hour mark.

The ball bounced around in the box before falling to Ivan Perisic who managed to see his effort bounce away off the inside of the post.

The Inter man should have scored and was hauled off a couple of minutes later for Brozovic.

Croatia huffed and puffed for the remainder of normal time but were unable to find the crucial goal which left us with another half an hour of football.

A quiet opening to extra time was broken in the 100th minute as Croatia finally took the lead.

A corner from Luke Modric was met by the head of Vida with the ball nestling in the bottom corner to the dismay of the home fans.

It looked to be over but once again Russia had not read the script. Dzaogoev delivered a delicious free kick from the right with five minutes of extra time to go and there was Mario Fernandes to nod the ball home. Cue pandemonium in the stands.

A penalty shoot-out would decide England’s opponents and it is faoir to say that neither side were convincing with their spot kicks.

In the end though, it was Croatia who claimed the victory thanks to a wining penalty from Ivan Rakitic. The Barcelona player swept the ball home in calm fashion to leave the stadium in Sochi deathly quiet.

Croatia won on a penalty shoot-out for the second round on the spin and will head to Moscow for a massive game against the Three Lions.

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