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Russia’s campaign at the 2018 World Cup came to an end. The host country lost to Croatia via penalties after their quarterfinal match ended in a 2-2 deadlock on Saturday at Fisht Olympic Stadium.

Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic made a key save in the penalty shoot-out, stopping Russia’s first penalty kick by Fedor Smolov. Then, Ivan Rakitic scored the game-winning penalty to lift Croatia to the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1998.

Croatia Survives Second Straight Shootout

“This was not a beautiful game; it was a battle,” says Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic, who carried the team to the final four for the first time since 1998 when they made it to the semifinals in France.

It was Croatia’s first semifinal appearance since gaining its independence after the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Andrej Kramaric and Domagoj Vida scored in regulation while Marcelo Brozovic, Luka Modric, Domagoj Vida, and Rakitic delivered in the shootout for the Croatians who will next face England for a spot in the World Cup finals.

“Another drama for us. We showed the character again,” Modric said after the win.

With the victory, Croatia became the first team since Argentina to win two straight matches via penalty kicks. The Croatians beat Denmark in the round of 16.

The Russia-Croatia clash was the 30th time that a World Cup game was decided on penalties. The first happened in the 1982 semifinal between West Germany and France.

Russians Fall Short

Denis Cheryshev and Mário Fernandes scored in the 31st and 115th minute, respectively, for the Russians who became the first country in World Cup history to play in two shootouts as host of the event.

Daler Kuzyaev, Sergei Ignashevich, and Alan Dzagoev scored in the penalty shootout for the Russians, who failed to match the achievement of the then-Soviet Union’s march to the final four in 1966.

Despite the loss, Russian President Vladimir Putin was satisfied with the team’s achievement. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Putin watched the game and rooted for the team.

“We lost in a fair and great game. They are still great guys for us, they are heroes. They were dying on the pitch, we are proud with them,” Peskov said.

Russia head coach Stanislav Cherchesov said Putin called the team before and after the game. Cherchesov said Putin congratulated the team on a very good game despite that they lost to Croatia.

“We told him we were disappointed. He said that we should keep our eyes open and take the next steps,” Cherchesov said.

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