Croatia overcame a late injury to goalkeeper Danijel Subasic to defeat Russia on a penalty shootout in the FIFA World Cup quarter-finals, ending the host nation’s fairy-tale run while prolonging their own.
It was a dramatic end to a see-saw game that finished 1-1 after the regulation 90 minutes, and 2-2 after extra-time.
Russia had opened the scoring in the 31st minute, courtesy a spectacular long-range effort from winger Denis Cheryshev which sent the home fans into delirium. But Croatia made it 1-1 just eight minutes later thanks to a headed goal from striker Andrej Kramaric.
Tied after 90 minutes, the game went to extra-time, and Croatia took a big step towards sealing victory after defender Domagoj Vida headed his team 2-1 up from a corner kick.
But with just five minutes remaining, Russia leveled the score thanks to a headed goal of their own, this time from right-back Mario Fernandes.
With a penalty shootout looming, there was concern for Croatia as Subasic appeared to be struggling with cramp.
But with no substitutions remaining, Subasic had no choice but to continue, and he got off to a good start, saving the first penalty kick from Russia striker Fedor Smolov.
Fernandes then went from hero to villain, the scorer of the equalizing extra-time goal dragging his penalty kick woefully wide, handing Croatia the advantage.
Real Madrid star Luka Modric, earlier goalscorer Vida and Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic all converted their penalty kicks, handing the Croatians a 4-3 win in the penalty shootout.
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Croatia’s victory will see them take on England in the semi-finals of the World Cup on Wednesday.
The other semi-final will see France play Belgium.