Croatia have reached the World Cup semifinal, only for the second time ever, after a 4-3 penalty shootout win over Russia. The two teams could not be separated after 120 minutes of football, with the match ending 2-2 before being settled in the shootout.
Denys Cheryshev saw his stunning opener cancelled out by Andrej Kramaric in normal time while it was the turn of Mario Fernandes to do that to Domagoj Vida in the extra time.
The first half turned out to be a dull affair which was ironically defined by two brilliant attacking moves by either team. Russia struck first after former Real Madrid midfielder Denys Cheryshev took matters into his own hands. He got possession in midfield, drove forward before exchanging passes with Artem Dzyuba.
Then he went on to shift the ball on to his left and curled home a delightful effort into the top corner. Croatia didn't have to wait long for the equaliser though. A clever flick from Ivan Perisic sent Mario Madzukic galloping down the left wing. The lanky striker entered the box and picked out Andrej Kramaric who sent a sharp header in to level things up.
But that was just about it in the first half when it came to clear-cut chances. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic were unable to dictate tempo while Russia were happy to sit deep and counter.
The pattern of the game remained pretty much the same in the second-half as well.
Russia were resorting to defending deep, forming two solid banks of four in front of the Croatian attack who kept probing to find a chink in the Russian armour. Perisic almost found it too when Kramaric did well to keep an overhit cross in play and the ball fell to the Inter Milan winger who from four yards out, somehow crashed a shot against the inside of the far post and saw the ball bounce out.
At the other end, the physical Artem Dzyuba went close with a header. But there was no deciding the match in normal time. Croatia, who were controlling the game, saw Danijel Subasic hurt his hamstring towards the end of normal time.
Domagoj Vida then thought he had won it for Croatia with a headed goal from a corner but Mario Fernandes equalised for Russia with yet another header, forcing the game into penalties. Danijel Subasic, hurt hamstring and all, turned out to be the hero by saving Fedor Smolov's penalty, which happened to be the first in the shootout.
Though Mateo Kovacic saw his kick saved by Akinfeev, Mario Fernandes' missed his to hand the initiative to Croatia. Luka Modric, Domagoj Vida, Marcel Brozovic and Ivan Rakitic found the net for them while only Alan Dzagoev, Sergei Ignashevic and Kuziaev could score for the hosts.
Even as the home fans wept in agony, they could hold their heads high after a brilliant campaign while Croatia now have a date with the English.