Penalties Dismantle Spanish and Danish Hopes

Spain team plunged into sorrow after the loss.Spain team plunged into sorrow after the loss.
Fernando Hierro’s Spain totally dominated the match at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, hogging 74% of possession and making more than 1000 passes

Denmark and 2010 World Cup winner Spain suffered loss in penalties on Sunday during the Round of 16 of the 2018 Russia World Cup and bid farewell to the tournament while Croatia and the host Russia advanced to the next round.

Russians celebrated their victory against Spaniards and well-deserved Croats also reached the quarterfinals to meet Russia, AFP wrote.

Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was Russia’s hero as the host country beat Spain in penalties. Fernando Hierro’s Spain totally dominated the match at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, hogging 74 percent of possession and making more than 1000 passes, but created few clear-cut chances and buckled under pressure when it mattered most.

Akinfeev saved penalties from Koke and Iago Aspas as Russia won the shootout 4-3, reaching the last eight for the first time since 1970, when the team played as the Soviet Union.

The unlikely victory sparked emotional scenes as the rain poured down and there was jubilation in central Moscow.

 Aiming for Penalties

Being the lowest-ranked nation in the tournament, 70th in FIFA ranking, Russia was not expected to progress beyond the first round but it is now in the last eight.

“We were hoping for penalties,” Akinfeev said after the match ended 1-1 after extra time, following a Sergei Ignashevich own goal and an assured Artem Dzyuba penalty.

Russia came into the tournament derided by supporters after a string of defeats in warm-up matches but it thrashed Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opener and then swept aside Egypt 3-1, making even the skeptical public believe.

 Disastrous La Roja

The result is a disaster for Spain, whose preparations for the World Cup was wrecked when manager Julen Lopetegui was sacked on the eve of the tournament after he took the vacant Real Madrid coach’s job.

Spain shipped five goals in three group matches and there were major questions over the form of goalkeeper David de Gea coming into the knockout phase.

Hierro rejected any suggestion the team would have fared better had the Spanish federation not decided to axe Lopetegui after arriving in Russia.

“We had opportunities to win this match but we ended up in a penalty shootout which is basically a lottery, and we weren’t lucky,” he said.

“I don’t think you can talk about the team breaking down or there being any sort of collapse,” the former Real Madrid captain said. “In football there’s a fine line between winning and losing.”

 Clash of Keepers

There was more penalty drama in the later match in Nizhny Novgorod, with Croatia winning 3-2 in penalties.

Croatia showed none of the spark that marked its romp through the group phase but still did enough to edge Denmark.

Five spot-kicks were saved during the nail-biting shootout, two by Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and three by Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.

Earlier, Mathias Jorgensen gave Denmark the lead after just 58 seconds but Mario Mandzukic leveled for Croatia in the fourth minute and the sides remained locked at 1-1 at the end of extra time.

Schmeichel made a brilliant stop to deny Luka Modric’s penalty in extra time and then saved twice more in the post-match shootout but still came out on the losing side as Croatia now go to Sochi to meet the host Russia.

Subasic made three saves in the shootout - only the second to do so in World Cup history after Portugal’s Ricardo against England in 2006.

“He was our hero tonight, he saved three penalties in a shootout,” said Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic. “You don’t see that every day. He pulled us through when we needed him most.”

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