Croatia have made the semi-finals of the World Cup for the second time in their history having knocked out hosts Russia on penalties (4-3) in Sochi on Saturday.
The Balkan side have also got a monkey off their back by ending their hoodoo against hosts, having been eliminated by France in 1998 and lost to Brazil in the opening match of the 2014 showpiece.
Roared on by a boisterous crowd at the Fisht Stadium, the Russians sought to press high up the pitch early on. Yet despite this pressure, the Croats refused to be cowed, continuing to play their game and giving as good as they get.
It was from one such counter-attack that Russia took the lead, Denis Cheryshev unleashing a left-footed piledriver that flew into the top corner.
However, he Vatreni were not about to lie down and hit back a few minutes later, Andrej Kramaric stooping to head past Igor Akinfeev and ensuring home fans’ celebrations were short-lived.
Beside an Ivan Perisic strike that clattered Akinfeev’s post, clear-cut chances were few and far between in the second half, which was tense as it was bereft of goalscoring action.
Dmagoj Vida headed home in the first period of extra time to silence the Russian supporters again, only for fans up and down the country to erupt with joy when Mario Fernandes equalized with minutes remaining.
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Fernandes would go from hero to villain in the shoot-out though, his miss proving decisive as Stanislav Cherchesov’s charges ultimately bowed out.
Russia is the first country in World Cup history to contest two shoot-outs while hosting the event.
Last night’s match was the 30th time that a game has benn decideded on penalties at the competition; the first was the 1982 semi-final between West Germany and France.
Croatia will face England in the semi-finals, 11 July, Moscow (Luzhniki Stadium).
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