Host Russia extends World Cup party by eliminating Spain

Heather Diaz
July 4, 2018

Host Russia beat Spain 4-3 on penalties thanks to two saves by its goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev Sunday to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals where it will face either Denmark or Croatia.

Sergei Ignashevich's own goal pushed the Spanish in front early on, but Artem Dzyuba converted a penalty to pull the host nation back level.

Russian Federation keeper Igor Akinfeev saved Koke's and Iago Aspas' spot kicks in their first ever penalty shootout to send the hosts through following a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.

As was the case from roughly half-time-ish onwards, penalties were inevitable and, after Koke had missed earlier in the shootout, a flailing foot from Akinfeev was enough to deny Iago Aspas and send Russian Federation through to the quarters...

Russia's World Cup topscorer Denis Cheryshev says the hosts can hurt 2010 winners Spain in the World Cup last 16 on Sunday despite the huge disparity in talent between the two teams. "I think our fans and foreign fans have recognized that we're a country that can play football and organize big events".

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.

While having so much individual quality all over the pitch, they still seem complacent and shaky at the back, there's been mistakes from numerous players, David de Gea most notably, Gerard Pique, and a mix-up between Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta in the final game. "Tonight, we were that team at the right place at the right time", added the coach, who had received a phone call from President Vladimir Putin a few hours before the game.

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Fellow PSG players Mbappe and Cavani were instrumental in their countries reaching the quarter-finals on Saturday, each scoring twice as France knocked out Argentina and Uruguay saw off Portugal.

Russia, ranked No.57 in the world by Federation Internationale de Football Association, qualified for the World Cup only because it is hosting the tournament. After Akinfeev acrobatically blocked the left-footed shot of Aspas, he leapt up, punched the air with both hands and dove into a belly flop cross the rain-soaked turf as teammates raced to him from the halfway line.

Even when Ignashevich deflected Marco Asensio's 12-minute free-kick, under a challenge from Sergio Ramos and as Spain settled into their groove, Russian Federation did not panic.

Akinfeev also extended a thank you to the 78,000-strong home crowd in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. We need to be professional. Spain's then-coach, Julen Lopetegui, was sacked two days before this year's World Cup after agreeing to take the Real Madrid job, and Fernando Hierro stepped in to take charge.

And Russia were then gifted a penalty when Pique handled in the box.

"You have to rest more when you play for 120 minutes rather than 90 minutes", said Cherchesov, who confirmed Yuri Zhirkov could be out for the remainder of the tournament after the left-back went off injured.

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