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Croatia beat Russia on penalties, qualifies for World Cup semi-finals

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Croatia beat Russia on penalties, qualifies for World Cup semi-finals

Croatia beat Russia on penalties, qualifies for World Cup semi-finals
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Croatia are through to the World Cup semi-final after a dramatic 4-3 penalty shoot out victory over Russia.

The game itself lacked quality at times but Russia took the lead through a moment of brilliance, Artem Dzyuba fed the ball into Dennis Cheryshev who whipped the ball into the top corner. The Russian lead didn't last long as eight minutes later Andrej Kramaric was found by Mario Mandzukic and headed into the net.

The match remained level and went to extra time and when Domagoj Vida headed into the net from a corner he thought he had won it for Croatia but the hosts weren't done yet, Russia equalised through Mario Fernandes with an excellent header five minutes from the end of extra time to take the game to penalties.

Russian hero Mario Fernandes then became a villain as his missed penalty opened the door for Croatia and the decisive penalty was then scored by Ivan Rakitic as he sent Igor Akinfeev the wrong way and sent his country to the semi final.

Croatia will now face England on Wednesday for a place in the World Cup Final.

Here are five things to take away from the game:

Croatia's performance

Croatia came into the game as overwhelming favourites and although they had plenty of the ball they didn't really create a lot. In truth Croatia weren't great, in particular their midfield were disappointing, Modric and Rakitic are obviously World Class but they will need to be much better than they were today if they want to beat England and get to the final.

Russia's fighting spirit

When Russia went 2-1 down in extra time most people thought the game was over, the players looked exhausted and conceding at that point would take the fight out of almost any team, but the hosts weren't done. Mario Fernandes headed home a late equaliser to take the game to penalties and send the stadium crazy. Although the hosts lost the game they will be remembered fondly across the world of football for their spirit and determination.

Cheryshev's goal

Denis Cheryshev had already scored an excellent goal earlier in the tournament, but he wasn't going to stop there and wanted to add another! His strike today may be even better than his goal against Saudi Arabia, as he picked the ball up and whipped it into the top corner at some pace. Cheryshev may now be out of the World Cup with Russia but he can keep his head held high with the goals he has scored.

Why we love football

This game epitomised why we love football: the match itself may not have been the best but the drama at the end more than made up for it. A potential winner in extra time, a world class goal, a late late equaliser and a penalty shoot-out. If anybody ever wanted to see the highs and lows of football they just needed to watch this game. And the official Fifa World Cup Twitter summed it up perfectly...

The final four

We now know that one of France, Belgium, England and Croatia will win the World Cup. It's been a phenomenal tournament and although it's nearly over we still have some cracking games to look forward to!