Russia’s fairytale run at the 2018 World Cup has finally ended after they were beaten 4-3 on penalties by Croatia in the last quarter final match on Saturday.
The World Cup hosts were not given any chance prior to the kickoff of the Mundial but they surprised many right from their opening game when they pumped in five goals against Saudi Arabia.
While Russia also started well in Saturday’s energy-sapping quarter-final duel against Croatia, they ran out of steam and ended bowing out against the Luka Modric-led side.
The hosts had a dream start as Denis Cheryshev with a stunner gave Russia the lead in the 31st minute.
Cheryshev unleashed a left-foot missile from 20 metres out that flew into the near top corner, leaving Danijel Subasic stunned. It was his fourth goal of the tournament.
It did not take too long for Croatia to get back on track as Mandzukic turned provider for the equaliser, charging down the left and pulling back for an Andrej Kramaric free header from seven yards.
As expected, Croatia dominated possession, but Mandzukic and Perisic failed to find the target from promising positions.
Perisic was so unlucky not to turn the game around completely on the hour mark, as his shot hit the inside of the upright, rolled all the way along the goal-line and somehow back out again.
With the game going into extra time, the tension was higher expectedly.
Into extra time for the second consecutive match, Croatia looked exhausted with Mandzukic and Subasic limping, yet Sime Vrsaljko had to come off injured to use up their fourth substitution.
They still managed to take the lead with Domagoj Vida’s header but a towering header from Brazil-born defender Mario Fernandes force the game into penalties.
Starting the penalty shootouts with a miss, Russia could not save their World Cup dreams as Ivan Rakitic scored the deciding kick that saw Croatia through to the semifinal where they will face England.