Match 1: Spain v Russia (1-1, 3-4p)
The favourites were fully on top in the opening stanza of the match and took the lead after 13 minutes. From a free kick, Sergio Ramos was tackled to the ground at the back post but the ball miraculously struck Ignashevich on his heel and flew into the net.
Russia equalised just before half time when they were awarded a penalty. Artem Dzyuba’s header struck Pique’s flailing right arm and the referee awarded the spot kick for handball. Dzyuba stepped up and scored his third goal of the tournament.
Spain dominated possession in their usual fashion but the old saying rings true; it’s not how much possession you have, it’s what you do with it. Neither Spain or Russia had any clear goal scoring chances in the second half or extra-time, but there was a penalty shout late on.
With just 5 minutes remaining in extra-time, both Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique were brought down in the box in what really should have been a penalty. However, the video referee decided against awarding a penalty, so we headed for the first penalty shootout of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The host nation had never been involved in a penalty shootout but they had beginner’s luck on their side as they slotted away all of their spot kicks. It was their captain and goalkeeper, Igor Akinfeev, who saved both Koke and Iago Aspas’ shots to take his country into the quarter-finals.
Match 2: Croatia v Denmark (1-1, 3-2p)
This game got off to a rapid start with both teams scoring inside the opening 5 minutes. Denmark scored in the first minute when a long throw in caused a goalmouth scramble. Mathias Jorgensen poked the ball goalwards and the keeper spilled the ball into the net. The goal was the first that Croatia had conceded in open play at this World Cup.
Croatia equalised just minutes later when a comedic clearance struck a Denmark defender in the face. The ball fell kindly to Mario Mandzukic who struck the ball on the half volley and scored at the near post.
Croatia looked the more likely to score but as the match went on, it was Denmark who began to grow in confidence. That confidence wasn’t enough to grab a winner inside 90 minutes, so we were headed for a second consecutive game that had to be decided by extra time.
In the 25th minute of extra time, Croatia were awarded a penalty. Ante Rebic was played in behind the Danish defence, and he rounded Kaspar Schmeichel and was through on goal. Goal scorer, Mathias Jorgensen, brought down Rebic from behind to stop an almost certain goal and was awarded a yellow card for his troubles. It was the right decision to make by Jorgensen as it gave his goalkeeper a chance to keep Denmark in the match. Schmeichel did just that as he saved Modric’s penalty. Was this a sign of things to come for Croatia in the shootout?
The penalty shootout got off to the worst possible start for both teams as Eriksen and Bidel both missed their penalties. It was eventually Ivan Rakitic who scored the winning spot kick after Subasic saved Nikolai Jorgensen’s penalty with his legs.
Croatia will now face host nation Russia in the quarter-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
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