Russian Federation beat Spain on penalties to reach World Cup quarters

Ruben Holloway
July 4, 2018

Hosts Russia beat Spain 4-3 on penalties thanks to two saves by their goalkeeper, Igor Akinfeev, on Sunday to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals. Second-ranked Brazil play Mexico in Monday's early game, while No.3 Belgium face Japan immediately after.

Since the match ended 1-1 after 90 minutes of regulation time, the issue rolled into overtime.

But there was high drama in the shootout for the 78,000 spectators at Luzhniki Stadium, with all four Russian penalty-takers keeping their cool and Akinfeev saving Aspas' spot kick with his foot to trigger wild celebrations.

"Thank God, we were lucky, that's it", said the keeper, who like his counterpart at the other end, David de Gea, had had little to break sweat over for the preceding 120 minutes.

"We were hoping for penalties", Akinfeev said.

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The home crowd greeted the arrival of extra time as if they had won the World Cup but Spain, seeing several of their rivals dropping to the floor with cramp and exhaustion, were no doubt confident that the hosts would eventually crack if they just kept rolling the ball from side to side.

The 32-year-old denied Iago Aspas and Koke during the penalty shootouts, breathing life into Russia's fairytale of a run in the latest edition of FIFA World Cup.

Spain coach Fernando Hierro left 34-year-old Iniesta on the bench for the last-16 match against Russian Federation, but he came on as a second-half substitute.

In the end he needed only four after Akinfeev's heroics completed one of the all-time great World Cup backs-to-the-wall performances and sent Russian Federation into the quarter-finals.

Russia's first win over Spain since the breakup of the Soviet Union books the hosts a place in the quarter-finals, where either Denmark or Croatia await. Lopetegui was sacked because he didn't tell Spain's soccer leaders he accepted an offer to coach Real Madrid after the tournament. The defeat also marked the end a of glittering global career for Andres Iniesta, who was brought on midway through the second half for his 131st and final Spain appearance.

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Spain hit more passes than any other team in the group stages and continued in such fashion. For Spain, it was another heartbreak at the World Cup.

Russian Federation won a corner through Spanish confusion in defense in the 41st minute, and Alexander Samedov hit the ball for Dzyuba, who headed it straight into Gerard Pique's waving arm.

In contrast, Russian Federation has completed the same number of passes - 1,029 - in four matches at the World Cup.

Spain played keep-ball in low gear as white shirts chased without reward but Golovin curled just wide (37) as a long Dzyuba ball snapped the monotony and then came the provider's big moment. "If anyone needs to shoulder this responsibility it's me", said the former Real Madrid captain.

Stanislav Cherchesov said that his tactics - and the way his players executed them - were the key to Russia's surprise last 16 victory over Spain.

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And their positive approach was rewarded in the 51st minute as Neymar and Willian combined to devastating effect. Neymar is through on goal, his shot is saved and it falls to Firmino to tap it into an empty net.


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