Russia vs Croatia: 3 Reasons why Croatia are through to the Semi-finals of World Cup 2018
SCORE: Russia 2-2 Croatia (AET); Croatia win 4-3 on penalties
Russia hosted Croatia in the last quarterfinal of the 2018 World Cup. England were lying in wait for the victors of the contest and had to wait quite a bit as a goal each forced extra time before both sides scored again, letting the fate of the cursed penalty shootout decide the outcome of the tie.
Croatia sneaked past the hosts, who were playing their first quarterfinal since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, after a game that was keenly and evenly contested and which was not short on exciting moments including glimpses of brilliance. Both sides had gone through 120 minutes in their previous fixtures and had come out on top after penalties.
On the night, it was the host nation that had to endure the hurt that accompanies exiting the World Cup in the manner that they did. Croatia, meanwhile, managed to set up an intriguing fixture with England in the semi-finals, in part, due to these 3 reasons:
#3 Showed resilience to strike back quickly
Russia have been excellent frontrunners in the competition. After conceding an early own-goal against Spain, Russia essentially went on to win in the remaining 80 minutes of regulation time. So if they could somehow manage to get ahead, like they eventually did thanks to the stunning strike from Dennis Cheryshev, they'd back themselves to fend off Croatia for the rest of the game.
However, after falling behind, Croatia showed resilience and determination, which can often elude the biggest teams on the biggest occasions - like it did Brazil the day before, to hit back just 8 minutes later.
It was important for Croatia to get level as soon as possible because, with 40 odd thousand fans willing their side on to stay ahead, Russia could've proved to be a difficult side to break down with growing self-confidence as the minutes counted down.
However, a well-worked equalizer - Maria Mandzukic drifting deep into opposition territory and finding Kramaric with the perfect cut-back for him to head the ball past Akinfeev - insured that Croatia didn't have to find a way past a Russian wall.