Russia provided drama and entertainment till very, very late today. The country has been the perfect host so far and their team has been winning hearts on the pitch. For the second game in a row, the Sbornaya fought against a much stronger European opponent to take the game all the way to a penalty shootout. Sadly, this time, it was not meant to be as Croatia won the shootout 4-3.
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The hosts took the lead early via a wonderful strike, courtesy of Denis Cheryshev. It was cancelled out 8 minutes later by Kramaric, who caught the Russian defence sleeping. After that Russia folded back in their cocoon and waited for Croatia, who produced wave after wave of attack. In the first half extra time, the Croats thought they struck gold when Vida’s header on a corner put them ahead. However, the Russians mustered all their courage and remaining energy and launched a final assault. It paid dividends when Fernandes jumped high to head or shoulder – it looked like a bit of both – a freekick in.
A whole country jumped with joy!
Croatia won the penalty shootout as Subasic and Akinfeev saved one apiece and Fernandes whipped his shot off target. The Vatreni deserved to win based on their performance, not just in this one game, but overall in the tournament. Still, we have to acknowledge the Russians’ efforts. With the little they had, Russia has overachieved and shown what it means to play for your country.
We hope this wave of positivity will not end here for Russia and that they use this as a stepping stone to develop football more in their country and build better relationships with the rest of the World. Putin has already made a statement that this World Cup broke many stereotypes about his country:
People have seen that Russia is a hospitable country, a friendly one for those who come here. I’m sure that an overwhelming majority of people who came will leave with the best feelings and memories of our country and will come again many times.
Cheers for more peace and cooperation around the World!
Cheers for the Sbornaya, for their proud display!
And cheers to Croatia, for their will to play and for deservedly earning the last semifinal spot!
Related: Could the World Cup be rigged?
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