Croatia qualified for the semifinals ahead of hosts Russia with an absolutely dramatic game that ended with a 4-3 penalty win for the Croats. Ivan Rakitic dealt a crushing blow to Russian hearts as he scored the last penalty to send the hosts packing from the World Cup. The game went to penalties after the game ended 2-2 after 120 minutes, and it was rightly among the most intense and physically draining games of the World Cup so far.
Russia hit the ground running in the first half when Dennis Cheryshev scored a stunner in the 31st minute with a curling left footed shot. Croatia were partly mediocre in the first period and were only sparked to life when Russia opened the scoring, but they proved their worth when Andrej Kramaric headed the ball home from a Mario Mandzukic cross just eight minutes later.
Croatia was the better side in the second half and created a number of good chances and were unlucky not to take the lead. Most notably Ivan Perisic’s shot that hit the woodwork so excruciatingly for the Croats. However, the deadlock could not be broken in normal time and the game went to extra time.
Croatia stole the lead in the 101st minute of extra time as Vedran Corluka deflected Domagoj Vida’s header to put Croatia 2-1 ahead. Quite dramatically, Russia drew level again courtesy a Mario Fernandes header after Alan Dzagoev crossed the ball from a freekick close to the area to make it 2-2 and the game went to penalties.
However, the real story was Danijel Subasic’s heroics playing an extra 30 minutes for Croatia after pulling his hamstring at the end of regulation time but rallied on with glaring pain to ensure his country’s second ever semi-final spot in the World Cup. Croatia will now face England in the World Cup Semifinals in Moscow.