Expected to be the easiest of quarter-finals of FIFA World Cup 2018, Russia versus Croatia turned out to be the most dramatic affair as both the sides scored once each in the extra time after the game had ended in a 1-1 tie after the completion of 90 regular minutes. Croatian defender Domagoz Vida scored in the 11th minute of the extra time give Croatia a 2-1 lead over the hosts. But Mario Fernandes scored his first ever international goal in the 25th minute of extra time to bring Russia back in contention.
Since 1986, there has not been a single FIFA World Cup in which at least one of the quarter-finals did not go in the extra time. 2018 proved to be no different as extra time was finally needed in the last quarter-final between Russia and Croatia. Both Russia and Croatia, co-incidentally, had reached quarter-finals after winning their respective round of 16 matches in a penalty shootout.
It was Mario Fernandes who kept the Russian dream alive after he headed home an equaliser with only minutes of the extra time to go. But the hero turned out to be the villain in the end as Fernandes shot it way too wide from the spot in the penalty shootouts when both the teams were locked at one each after taking two penalties each.
Earlier, the match begun with Russia’s stern defence combined with calculated attacking ploys, which proved to be successful as the hosts took the lead in the 31st minute when Denis Cheryshev scored a fantastic curler from 25-yards. Merely eight minutes later, Kramaric leveled things for Croatia with a perfectly placed header.
Even though Russia moved back to a more defensive approach, Croatia almost took the lead in the 60th minute, but Persic’s shot cannoned out after hitting the crossbar. The hosts defended with precision afterwards and held a star studded Croatian side level at 1-1 after the end of 90 minutes of the regular time, just like they had held Spain 1-1 in their round of 16 game. But unlike in their previous encounter against Spain, Russia could not hold Croatia from scoring in the extra time as Vida headed home a vital goal in the 101st minute.
Russia, however, reacted quickly to create a flurry of chances before they finally equalised with merely five minutes left on the clock. Russia almost scored again in the 118th minute but Danijel Subasic, the Croatian goalkeeper made a crucial save to lead the match to a penalty shootout.
In the penalty shootout, Russia failed to convert from the spot twice while Croatia made only one mistake and the latter booked a semi-final date with England on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Belgium will face France in the first semi-final of FIFA World Cup 2018.