Croatia beat Russia on penalties to reach World Cup semi-finals

Croatia beat Russia on penalties to reach World Cup semi-finals

"Thank God we have shown our character". On 31-Oh to minute the halfback of Russian national team Denis Cheryshev skillfully shot from a distance and the ball sailed into the top corner of the goal to the Croats.

Mandzukic turned provider for the equaliser, charging down the left and pulling back for an Andrej Kramaric free header from seven yards.

He was tireless but largely limited against Russian Federation, his early influence stumped by playing in a deeper role as Kramaric was deployed in behind Mario Mandzukic.

The home fans were behind Russian Federation, screaming every time their team went forward in an open start, though Croatia had the better of the early chances.

Excitement in the stadium, which was full of fans shouting Ra-si-ya, was palpable as the match went to extra-time.

The reaction to Vida's goal was nearly one of shock as it crept through the legs of teammate Vedran Corluka and into the bottom corner, with the home crowd left temporarily silent and in disbelief as the goalscorer reeled away and ripped off his shirt in celebration. The ball floated onto the head of Domagoj Vida, who pushed it through traffic to give Croatia a late lead. They sang and danced all night long in the bars and streets of Sochi, celebrating the joy and hope that football had given them the last few weeks. Akinfeev denied Mateo Kovacic and nearly kept out Luka Modric's effort from 12 yards out, but Rakitic converted the decisive effort to seal a 4-3 win in the shootout.

Croatia pressed for a late victor, earning a pair of corners, but the game went to extra-time where after four minutes, right-back Sime Vrsaljko picked up an injury and Vedran Corluka became Croatia's fourth sub.

However, it was not to be for the resilient hosts, with goalkeeper Danijel Subasic saving Fedor Smolov's penalty and Fernandes firing wide before Rakitic kept his composure to put Croatia one match away from the final.

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Marcelo Brozovic clinically despatched his spot-kick before Dzagoev made it 1-1. Igor Akinfeev was more than once called into action in the opening moments and each time displayed his class that was so apparent versus Spain to keep Ante Rebic's effort out.

2 - Croatia are just the second side to progress on a penalty shootout in consecutive knockout games in a World Cup tournament after Argentina in 1990 (v Yugoslavia and Italy).

To their eternal credit, Russian Federation still did not give in and hit back again when Alan Dzagoev floated a free kick into the area and Fernandes powered home a header to force a shootout.

The other semi-final will see France play Belgium.

Croatia, a shadow of the team which cruised through their group with maximum points, won the shootout when Ivan Rakitic calmly netted and they will face England in the semifinals in Moscow on Wednesday.

"He could go on and that was the most important thing", Croatia captain Luka Modric said.

Real Madrid's Modric agreed, saying: "We have enough time to rest and prepare well". "No one considered us to be any good before the World Cup".

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