Another giant falls as Russian Federation eliminate Spain

Lynette Rowe
July 4, 2018

Russian Federation reached a World Cup quarter-final for the first time in 48 years when the hosts beat former champions Spain 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw yesterday.

Akinfeev saved spot kicks by Koke and Iago Aspas after both teams had scored two apiece in what was Russia's first World Cup penalty shootout, to send his team to the last eight after a lacklustre 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.

"I believe that it's only the beginning so I have to save my emotions for the future", said Cherchesov, who at times gestured towards the crowd to lift the noise levels.

After Artem Dzyuba's penalty had cancelled out the own goal from Sergei Ignashevich that opened the scoring, Russian Federation spent most of the game on the defensive, maintaining a rigid structure that Spain's tiki-taka was powerless to penetrate.

Russian Federation hit back against the run of play when Gerard Pique needlessly stuck his hand in the air and handled an Artem Dzyuba header.

The World Cup's lowest-ranked team now advances a quarterfinal against Croatia or Denmark in Sochi on Sunday.

Two saves from Igor Akinfeev in the penalty shoot-out gave the hosts the 4-3 win. The 34-year-old Barcelona midfielder came off the bench and nearly won the game with an 85th-minute shot well saved by Akinfeev.

"I think Paris St Germain is very well represented (at the World Cup), but now we are talking about the Brazilian national team and I think our team is very balanced". Dzyuba himself stepped up and sent David De Gea the wrong way.

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Russian Federation can play with five at the back, as against Spain, or a four-man defense, as in the three group-stage games.

In overtime, Spain has created a few more chances, but Akinfeev played correctly. Koke's miss gave Russian Federation the upper hand and Akinfeev sent the Luzhniki Stadium into bedlam as he saved Iago Aspas' penalty with his feet.

The veteran Iniesta nearly scored in the 85th when he found himself unmarked on the edge of his area, but Akinfeev palmed away his low shot, and the keeper was then also on his guard against Aspas in extra-time which set up the shoot-out where the home side kept their nerve to seal the win. "We don't look ahead and we don't look back", said the goalkeeper who made a dramatic save with his foot to ensure Russia's progress on Sunday, setting off fanatical celebrations across the country.

This is the best performance by Russian Federation since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Referees and video officials have consistently penalized handballs in the box at this World Cup.

"We endured. We wanted it", he added as he reflected on the shock triumph.

Left-back Marcelo will be absent for the five-time champions in Samara after he was forced off injured in the final group game against Serbia, with Felipe Luis set to deputise.

Dzyuba converted from the spot and it proved to be a costly mistake from the Barcelona defender as the rest of the match turned into defense versus attack with Russia's defenders, ultimately, coming out on top.

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