After seeing France and Uruguay proceed to the quarterfinals on Saturday, it was Spain’s turn to play their first knockout match in the World Cup. Spain met Russia in Moscow, and Fernando Hierro surprised everyone with his starting lineup against the hosts. Dani Carvajal and Andrés Iniesta both got sent to the bench; while Marco Asensio and Nacho Fernández slid into the starting XI. Sergio Ramos captained the side and made his 17th appearance in the World Cup, which equaled Iker Casillas’s 17 caps.
As expected, it was Spain who took charge of the game from the beginning, but it would take some time before the first chance of the game took place. After ten minutes, Nacho got injured in a clash with Russian left back Yuri Zhirkov. They both clashed knees and the Real Madrid defender went down in pain. After some time, he got back up, and Marco Asensio stepped up to take the free-kick. The 22-year-old crossed it into Sergio Ramos, who battled with Sergei Ignashevich, and the ball went into the net as an own goal. Ramos celebrated as if he scored himself, but the replay showed that it was Ignashevic who scored into his own net.
Spain calmed down after the goal and it seemed like Hierro’s side would control the game and progress without any big issues. Russia conjured more chances at the end of the first half, though. In one instance, Sergio Ramos lost an aerial duel with Artem Dzyuba, and the ball landed at Golovin’s feet. The 22-year-old Russian midfielder tried to curl the ball into the far corner from the edge of the area, but the ball went a meter wide of David de Gea’s post. Five minutes later, Russia would get their equalizer. A header from Dzyuba went into Piqué’s hand, and Björn Kuipers pointed to the spot. Artem Dzyuba stepped up and sent David de Gea to the left, while he placed the ball to the right.
Spain had a lot of possession, but they struggled with breaking down a tight Russian defense. After an hour of play, Isco combined with Diego Costa and got down to the line, but Isco’s cross got blocked. With 20 minutes to go, Nacho had to be subbed off due to his injury in the first half, and Dani Carvajal entered the pitch. With five minutes to go, both Andrés Iniesta and Iago Aspas got their chances to score the winning goal. First, it was Iniesta who tried a volley from the edge of the area, but Akinfeev made yet another save. Aspas tried to poke in the rebounder, but the CSKA Moscow player stopped the shot. The teams were still equal at full time, and extra time awaited.
Spain continued to struggle in the first half of extra time, and they even made over 1000 successful passes. It was first after ten minutes into extra time that Marco Asensio tested Akinfeev with a shot, but again, the 32-year-old goalkeeper had control. Five minutes later Asensio got subbed out for former Real Madrid Castilla player Rodrigo. Right before the first break, Piqué got his head on a free-kick, but the header went straight to Akinfeev.
Russia was very compact all game and Spain struggled creating big chances; but three minutes into the second-half of extra-time, Rodrigo managed to get some space. The Valencia player let the ball go through his legs and he got one-on-one with a Russian defender. The 27-year-old cut inside and fired away, but Akinfeev saved the shot. Dani Carvajal was the first one on the rebound, but Carvajal’s shot with his left foot got blocked. Spain didn’t manage to create any more big chances, and after 120 minutes, it was time for a penalty shootout in Moscow.
Spain was to take the first penalty, and Andrés Iniesta put La Roja in the lead with a good penalty, before Fedor Smolov equalized with a penalty of his own. Piqué scored Spain’s second penalty, but Sergei Ignashevich also scored on Russia’s second shot from the spot. Koke stepped up to take Spain’s third penalty, but the midfielder’s try got saved by Akinfeev. Aleksandr Golovin put Russia in the lead with a good penalty, and after both Sergio Ramos and Denis Cheryshev had scored, Iago Aspas had to score to keep Spain in the match. Igor Akinfeev saved the penalty with his leg and Russia came out as the winning team, and they will meet the winner of the game between Croatia and Denmark in the quarter final.