Published: Wed, July 04, 2018
Sports | By Brett Lawson

Spain pay penalty for not finishing off hosts Russian Federation

Spain pay penalty for not finishing off hosts Russian Federation

Akinfeev's foot kept Russia's party going Sunday night, ended the worldwide career of one of Spain's biggest stars and sealed the biggest upset of the tournament and one of the greatest in World Cup history.

In the penalty shootout, Koke and Iago Aspas missed their attempts for Spain while the Russians converted their first four spot kicks.

Russia's Sergei Ignashevich's own goal in the 12th minute opened Spain's account before Artem Dzyuba struck in the 41st minute to equalise.

They held firm as extra time reached the halfway point and then summoned a Herculean final effort in the final 15 minutes as Spain finally seemed to realize their looming predicament.

Now our team will play the victor of Croatia - Denmark, it will be determined tonight at the match in Nizhny Novgorod. Now they will be thinking anything is possible as they capitalize on a wide-open draw and fervent support from their home fans.

And it was those two who almost won it for Spain with five minutes to go, when first Iniesta and then Aspas fired shots at Akinfeev's goal - only for the skipper to parry both away.

Subasic's three saves and Schmeichel's two made it the most combined saves in a World Cup shootout.

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It was the latest in a series of arguments about football and the relative merits of the world's two best players. His best performance was against Spain; three goals and an nearly flawless game, with 94 percent pass completion.

For all its possession and territory, the former world champion was far from convincing against a disciplined Russian side. Iniesta was surprisingly left out, replaced by Marco Asensio on the left side of midfield. After this, Igor Akinfeev, the Russian keeper stopped Koke from scoring giving Russia the advantage.

Considering the circumstances Spain found themselves in just two days before their first match, with Julen Lopetegui being dismissed from his position as manager due to links with Real Madrid, Fernando Hierro has done a very good job of settling the squad down and ensuring they still got through the group. Sergio Ramos' clever back-post movement had 39-year-old Sergei Ignashevich scrambling.

In their last group stage game, Spain drew 2-2 with Morocco to see passage into the knockout rounds of the tournament, whereas Russian Federation suffered a demoralising defeat to Uruguay. The crowd roared, Pique howled, the referee pointed to the spot and the VAR whispered his approval.

Spain shipped five goals in their three group matches and there were major questions over the form of goalkeeper David de Gea coming into the knockout phase.

"I don't believe I'm man of the match", said Akinfeev, a Moscow native, one of the evening's many heroes and his country's captain. Akinfeev repelled Andres Iniesta - match-winner in the 2010 final, he was a controversial substitute - and Aspas in quick succession, Spain's 809 passes in 94 minutes of normal time rendered nearly redundant as they could not find a way through.

The veteran Iniesta nearly scored in the 85th when he found himself unmarked on the edge of his area, but Akinfeev palmed away his low shot, and the keeper was then also on his guard against Aspas in extra-time which set up the shoot-out where the home side kept their nerve to seal the win. Aspas then thrashed a shot across the face of goal from the rebound.

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