Croatia are through to the World Cup semifinal at the expense of hosts Russia whose dream campaign has come to an end. The city of Moscow will bleed tonight but Stanislav Cherchesov’s side bow out after giving their all.
Denis Cheryshev got Russia off to a brilliant start by marking his return to the starting line-up with yet another contender for goal of the tournament after his stunning efforts against Saudi Arabia and Egypt in the group stage, but Andrej Kramaric equalised just eight minutes later.
Domagoj Vida headed Luka Modric’s corner home 10 minutes into the first extra period, only for Fernandes, the Brazil-born defender who was only granted Russia citizenship by president Vladimir Putin two years ago, to keep Russia’s hopes alive in a dramatic finish.
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.
Croatia stymied Russia’s positive start as Russia focused on counter-attacking but Ivan Perisic glanced a header wide as Dalic’s men struggled to turn possession into clear-cut chances.
Russia punished them when Cheryshev came in from the left and, after a one-two with Artem Dzyuba, skipped away from Modric and curled an exquisite 31st-minute effort beyond Subasic, who remained rooted to the spot as the ball sailed into his net.
Cherchesov’s men were unable to hold on until half-time, though, as Mario Mandzukic advanced down the left to set up the chance for an unmarked Kramaric to silence Sochi.
Croatia went agonisingly close to taking the lead for the first time on the hour, but Perisic was denied by the upright after Igor Akinfeev flapped at a lofted ball from Kramaric.
Subasic appeared to sustain a hamstring injury when stopping a deflected Aleksandr Erokhin cross go out for a corner, though he recovered to bat away Smolov’s drive from an acute angle in stoppage time.
An injury to Sime Vrsaljko forced Dalic to send on Vedran Corluka as his fourth substitution, though Croatia were celebrating when Vida nodded past Akinfeev.
The ailing Subasic managed to keep out Daler Kuzyaev but could do nothing as Fernandes headed home the equaliser in the 115th minute, converting Alan Dzagoev’s free-kick after the CSKA Moscow midfielder was sent on for his first appearance since sustaining a hamstring injury in the tournament opener against Saudi Arabia.
Luka Modric and co.will now take on England in the semifinal but their fitness will be called into question, given they have played two 120-minute games now.
But they wouldn’t give that much of thought right now. It’s party time for the minority of Croatian fans in Moscow
Russia Vs Croatia Match highlight Penalty Summary
Fedor Smolov started it off for Russia but saw his chip down the middle palmed away by Subasic.
Brozovic ran in and scored one high to his left to send Croatia ahead.
Alan Dzagoev calmly slotted his kick, sending Subasic the other way. 1-1.
Mateo Kovacic then saw his placed penalty superbly palmed away by a diving Akinfeev. All square again!
Mario Fernandes ran in smacked his penalty wide of the post. Advantage Croatia again.
Luka Modric then saw his kick to his right almost saved by Akinfeev. It struck the goalkeeper and went in off the inside ofthe post. 1-2.
Sergei Ignashevic then found the left bottom corner to make it 2-2.
Domagoj Vida then sent Akinfeev the wrong way without any fuss to make it 3-2 for Croatia.
Kuzyaev then finished his kick to make it 3-3.
But Ivan Rakitic was on hand to calmly find the left bottom corner and send Croatia to the World Cup semifinal.