Croatia ends Russia's run, advances to World Cup semifinals

Croatia Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic

Croatia Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic

Danijel Subasic saved another penalty and Ivan Rakitic converted the decisive one as Croatia ended the fairy-tale run of World Cup hosts Russian Federation with a 4-3 win on penalties on Saturday to set up a semi-final date with England.

Denis Cheryshev had put Russian Federation in front in the 31st minute with a superb strike - his fourth goal of the tournament - but that was cancelled out eight minutes later by Andrej Kramaric's header.

But against Croatia their unbelievable run ended at the quarter-final stage despite taking the lead after 30 minutes. Croatia took the lead through Domagoj Vida in the first period of extra time but Russian Federation equalised in the second period through Mario Fernandes.

The win over Nigeria was routine but uninspired, while the 2-1 victory over tiny Iceland was only secured late on.

The current generation is considered the country's second best after the class of 1998 and now they head into the semi-finals with dreams full of becoming the finalists, at least. In order for a "fairy-tale" ending for Croatia, as described by Luka Modric, to come true this World Cup, it must overcome England, either France or Belgium, and likely hostile crowds as many in Russian Federation would not hesitate to cheer against the team that knocked off their own country.

"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 hosts came into the tournament as the lowest-ranked team but began with a bang by beating Saudi Arabia 5-0 and Egypt 3-1.

"Hrvatska! Hrvatska!" (Croatia) chanted the fans, while drivers blared their horns and the parties were set to continue all night long. It was Cheryshev's fourth goal of the tournament.

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The crowd erupted, but Croatia were undeterred and equalised just eight minutes later.

Cherchesov's men were unable to hold on until half-time, though, as Mario Mandzukic advanced down the left to set up the chance for an unmarked Kramaric to head home and silence Sochi.

For all of Russia's hard running, it was unable to prevent the equalizer just eight minutes later.Mario Mandzukic's powerful run down the left was followed by a deft chip into the box, which the onrushing Kramaric diverted past Igor Akinfeev.

Kramaric threatened again seven minutes into the second half, although his overhead-kick was comfortably claimed by Akinfeev, who saw Ivan Strinic fire well over the crossbar from 22 yards out on the left in the 58th minute, before the woodwork came to Russia's rescue two minutes later.

Then, just like in the round of 16 game against Denmark, it was Ivan Rakitic who sealed the deal with his coolly taken spot kick in the penalty shootout at the end.

In the 11th minute of the extra time, Croatia won a corner on the right following a counter-attack and Vida fought off his marker to send a slow header to the bottom right corner to give Croatia the lead. And with the locked at 2-2 after extra time, it was on to penalties to decide the victor.

In the shootout, Smolov's feeble shot was saved by Subasic and Fernandes hit wide.

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