By Chux Odoh
In what can be described as one of the most intriguing games in Russia 2018, Croatia has knocked out the hosts of the 2018 FIFA world cup in a game decided by a nerve-racking penalty kick showdown.
Croatia came into the match hoping to equal the feat achieved by their 1998 golden generation in the world cup in France. Russia on the other hand with their huge home advantage and support looked in high spirits following their growing confidence since the tournament started, as the game commenced.
The game lived up to its expectation in the opening as both teams tried to control possession of the ball. Both teams were quite physical as they worked hard to dictate the pace of the match. The first goal of the match, however, came in the 31st minute of the match. Artem Dzyuba and Denis Cheryshev played some neat football as they combined with beautiful 1-2 before Cheryshev beat the Croatia keeper Subasic from outside the box!
Minutes later, it was Croatia’s turn to get their equalizer. A goal kick by the Croatians found Mario Mario Mandzukic free and he creates some space for himself. Mandzukic then plays a cross into the box which Andrej Kramaric connected with to get the goal in the 39th minute. The first half game ended in a 1 – 1.
The second half of the match began with the same energy as the first as both teams worked hard to outplay the other. The match was also very physical with lots of brilliant tackles and blocks. Referee Sandro Ricci from Brazil also made sure that the game flowed freely with very minimal stoppages called. Both teams couldn’t get the winner and so the game progressed for 30mins of extra time.
10 minutes into extra time, Croatia scored their second goal of the game. Luka Modric from swung in the corner from the right hand and Domagoj Vida created space for himself to head into the goal. He, however, bagged a yellow card for taking off his shirt while he celebrated the important goal as the Croatians took the lead for the first time in the game.
But from then on, it felt like the Russians with the massive support of their charging fans dominated the rest of the game as the Croatians tried to defend their lead till the end of the game. A string of saves by Subasic kept the scoreline in their favour until the 115th minute. Russia got a freekick at the edge of the box and Alan Dzagoev crossed the ball into the box with was connected by Brazilian born Mario Fernandes for the equaliser.
The game went into penalties and once again it became a game of chances. Fedor Smolov stepped up to take the first kick for Russia but he saw his effort saved by the Croatia goalkeeper. Marcelo Brozovic of Croatia scored his penalty as also did Alan Dzagoev for Russia’s second. Croatia Mateo Kovacic is denied by Igor Akinfeev to even the scoreline but Mario Fernandes who was a temporal hero for his equaliser became the villain as his kick went wide the left side.
Modric, Domagoj Vid and Rakitic also converted their penalties and thus knocked out the Russians from the tournament. Croatia will now face England in the semifinals on Wednesday 11 July by 7 pm while France will be playing again Belguim a day earlier in the other semifinal game.