Hosts Russia have made the quarter finals of the World Cup after beating favourites Spain 4-3 on penalties in Moscow.
In a contest dominated by Spain, Russia held strong defensively for 120 minutes, and their tactics paid off as goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev saved twice to guide the Russians to an unlikely victory.
In the first half, Spain managed to take an early lead. From a delivery from the right, Sergio Ramos was tussling at the back post with Russian defender Sergei Ignashevich and the delivery deflected off the defender past Akinfeev.
But, just before half time, Artem Dzyuba levelled things up. Gerard Pique was adjudged to have had his arm unnaturally high when the ball hit his arm, and the referee awarded a penalty. Dzyuba slotted home to send Russia into raptures.
Spain dominated proceedings for the remainder of the game but couldn’t find a decisive way through the stern Russian defence.
In extra-time, Rodrigo was introduced and added some much-needed spark to a dull Spanish side and he saw a one-on-one effort saved. In the dying embers of the half, Spain felt as though they should have had a penalty awarded when Pique had his shirt grabbed during a free kick, but no penalty was given.
In the penalties, the two sides scored their opening two each. But, from Spain’s third, Koke saw his effort down the centre saved by Russia’s Akinfeev. Ramos gave Spain a lifeline, but at 4-3, Iago Aspas had to score. But Akinfeev made himself the hero as he saved his second of the match and sent Russia into the quarter-finals of their own World Cup.
5 Things we learned
Spain’s tactics were tame
The pressure saw Spain struggle to manage the game and they never truly threatened the Russian defence.
Spain sacking their manager has had an effect
Two days before the tournament, Lopetegui was sacked. Since then, Spain have performed poorly, winning just once this tournament against Iran 1-0. They needed their manager.
Russia’s tactics worked
Defensive throughout, and sitting deep, Russia’s plan worked. They set up negatively and they lasted until penalties, where the gamble paid off.
A host nation with momentum is powerful
South Korea did it in 2002, this could be Russia’s turn. A host nation with momentum and the fans’ backing is a powerful force.
This World Cup is random
Germany, Argentina, Portugal and now Spain are all out before the quarter-finals. You cannot predict how this tournament will go.