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Croatia Book World Cup Semi-Final With England After Penalty Shootout Win



Croatia will meet England in the World Cup last four after defeating the host nation Russia 4-3 in a quarter-final penalty shootout in Sochi. The teams were locked at 1-1 after 90 minutes and remained locked – though at 2-2 – after extra time, before being forced into a shootout. Russia and Croatia had traded goals during the 90 minutes at the Fisht Stadium. Denis Cheryshev scored the opener for the host nation before Andrej Kramaric equalised and the teams went into extra time. Domagoj Vida then appeared to give Croatia the edge with his goal in the first half of extra time but Mario Fernandes struck back for the host nation in the 115th minute. The teams then entered the shootout.
The winners will play England in the semi-final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Wednesday.
Stanislav Cherchesov made one change to his starting lineup. The only alteration from the hosts’ last-16 win against Spain being Denis Cheryshev, scorer of three goals in the tournament for the host nation, come in for Yuri Zhirkov.
There was also one change to Croatia’s team from their match against Denmark, with the former Leicester striker Andrej Kramaric replacing Marcelo Brozovic.
Russia grabbed the lead in the 31st minute through a superb effort from Denis Cheryshev. The Villarreal man played a one-two with Artem Dzyuba before firing past Danijel Subasic from just outside the box.
Eight minutes later Croatia drew level as Andrej Kramaric got on the scoresheet, connecting with a Mario Mandzukic cross and nodding the ball in from close range.
The 1-1 interval scoreline reflected the balance of play after Cheryshev’s strike ignited a late explosion of action in the first half.
Russia started the second half with no team changes for either side. Shortly after the restart Kramaric fashioned an overhead kick but the shot had little power and was gathered by Igor Akinfeev.
Ivan Perisic was then inches away from putting Croatia in front on the hour but his shot hit the bottom of the post then travelled across the face of goal and away from danger for the host nation.
Croatia lifted their tempo while Russia sat deep. Cheryshev was replaced by the striker Fyodor Smolov in the 66th minute.
Neither side could break down the other, however, and the match became scrappy in parts as extra time loomed and nerves kicked in.

The Russia substitute Alexander Erokhin headed over the bar and Croatia’s captain, Luka Modric, had a shot blocked but neither team could find a late winner.

Croatia made their final substitution as Mateo Kovacic came on for Kramaric – just before Subasic appeared to injure his hamstring, forcing the Croatians to nurse their stricken goalkeeper until the referee blew the whistle to send the match into extra time.

Subasic received attention for what later appeared to be cramp, before the teams kicked off again. Russia started the first half of extra time at a higher tempo, and immediately won a corner down the right. The delivery dropped to Erokhin six yards out but he could get a shot away and Croatia cleared.

Sime Vrsaljko was then forced to the sidelines for treatment while play continued. He did not return and Croatia made a bonus extra-time fourth substitution.

The Croatians then cleared an attack from the host nation and went immediately to the other end, winning a corner. In the 11th minute of extra time Vida leapt to meet the set piece and sent a slow downward header into the bottom right.

Russia, however, were not done. Dzagoev curled a free-kick into the box and Fernandes flashed a header into the bottom left.

The teams then entered the penalty shootout to decide England’s opponents in the World Cup semi-final.