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Russia vs Croatia: 3 Reasons why Croatia are through to the Semi-finals of World Cup 2018

Zeeshan Ali
Top 5 / Top 10
08 Jul 2018, 05:36 IST

#2 The spin on the ball from Akinfeev's hand on Modric's penalty

Russia v Croatia: Quarter Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Akinfeev was incredibly unlucky to not keep it out

Finally, there is growing consensus surrounding Modric's claim for supremacy in the middle of any park, anywhere in the world. The Real Madrid man has gone about his business with minimal fuss for the past decade, first with Tottenham and then with Los Blancos, and now even more impressively, with his national side in their bid for history in Russia.

He has been the guiding light in their quest to emulate the only Croatian side to have reached the semi-finals of the World Cup, back in 1998. He has scored twice in Russia, including an absolute stunner against Argentina in the Group Stage, and has been immaculate as ever in pulling the strings for Croatia in midfield.

The only chink in his armour - scoring from the spot. After putting away his first against Nigeria, he went on to miss a golden opportunity to send Croatia through to the quarters against Denmark from 12 yards out in extra-time. Modric then nervously stepped up to take his spot-kick in the shootout and only just about managed to evade Kasper Schmeichel in goal.

In the 120 minutes preceding the penalties against Russia, Modric was at his effervescent best: dropping deep to play the quarterback role and spraying passes all over the park, gliding past opposition players with ease - all the regular magic that accompanies the Croatian.

Then came the time to take the dreaded penalty again. The nervousness gripped him again. He went to the keeper's left. So did Akinfeev, and got his right hand to the ball and pushed it onto the post. It seemed that he had done enough, but the ball spun off the crossbar back over the goal-line and the penalty stood. Margins.

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