Pain, luck, fans -- and God -- see Russian Federation home over Spain

02 July, 2018, 12:12 | Author: Donna Miller
  • Fernando Hierro

Hosts Russia beat Spain 4-3 on penalties thanks to two saves by their goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev on Sunday to advance to the World Cup quarter-finals and send thousands of ecstatic Russians to the streets to celebrate.

Sergei Ignashevish's own goal gave Spain an early lead before Artem Dzyuba levelled, but neither side could find another breakthrough in extra time and Igor Akinfeev was Russia's hero, denying Koke and then diverting Iago Aspas's effort away with his foot in a dramatic shootout.

He will forever be remembered for the most important goal in Spain's history to win the World Cup eight years ago, but Andres Iniesta's worldwide career ended in sad fashion among delirium for the hosts in Moscow.

"We hope this isn't the last World Cup for this generation".

"Sometimes the endings aren't the ones you dreamed of", said Iniesta. The fans at Luzhniki, who had patiently watched their team spend two hours staying tight and rarely coming forward, exploded. Russian Federation have scored all 4 of theirs, Spain only 3 as Koke has his shot blocked.

Spain came to the finals unbeaten in 20 matches since Lopetegui took over following Euro 2016, with the 2010 world champions winning just once in four games with Hierro at the helm.

"I think for us tomorrow has to be a party, especially for the fans. But if we had gone for a different tactic we would not have succeeded". They will face the victor of the following Round of 16 tie between Croatia and Denmark.

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Sergio Ramos is teary-eyed, Andres Iniesta, who has played his last World Cup match, is gutted.

That injected some urgency into Spain's play and they almost reclaimed the lead as a pin-point through ball found Diego Costa, who forced Akinfeev into an important save.

There have been a number of own goals so far, Spain benefitting from the latest one as Ignashevich scored at the wrong end as far as Russian Federation were concerned.

"We're hosting a fantastic tournament", Akinfeev said. "Today we had to endure, endure and endure everything, go through pain and cramps".

"Players will not do things just because the coach says so". Definitely out, he said, is midfielder Yuri Zhirkov, who went off at halftime.

It all looked to be going well for Fernando Heirro's men when Sergei Ignashevich deflected the ball into his own net inside 12 minutes, but a moment of madness from Gerard Pique gave Russian Federation the opportunity to equalise from the penalty spot. So, in the days leading up to the match, he approached each player personally, he said, speaking one-on-one so as to explain how that player would fit into the larger plan.

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