After three out of four quarter-finals was played it was Russia - Croatia that remained. After seeing England beat Sweden Saturday afternoon, both teams knew that it would be England that would be the opponent in an eventual semifinal. Luka Modric started the game as he has done in every Croatia match this tournament, while Mateo Kovacic started on the bench, despite picking up a shoulder injury against Denmark. As Zlatko Dalić decided to start Andrej Kramarić instead of Marcelo Brozovic, Modric played a bit deeper than usual, as he partnered Ivan Rakitic in the heart of the midfield.
Even though Russia started the game with an intense pressure, it took some time before the first big chance of the game took place. After 30 minutes it was former Real Madrid player Denis Cheryshev that scored on the first chance of the game. Luka Modric missed his tackle on Cheryshev, and the Villarreal player smashed the ball into the top corner with a rocket of a shot. Ten minutes later, Andrej Kramarić equalized with a header after a cross from Mario Mandžukić, and the teams were even after the first 45 minutes.
The first half continued in the same way as the first, with even play and few chances. After an hour it was Ivan Perišić who got a good chance. After some chaos in the Russia area, the ball came to Perišić’ feet, but his shot went in the post and out. With 15 minutes to go Luka Modric got a good chance when he received the ball within the area. Modric had time and space to take one touch, but his following volley got from the penalty spot got blocked. Mateo Kovacic got subbed on minutes before full time, and Zlatko Dalić prepared for extra time in Sochi.
Halfway into the first extra half, Modric tried to go all the way by himself. The midfielder ran from far into his own half, but after he passed by five Russian players he got tackled right outside Russia’s area. A couple of minutes later, Croatia would find their much-needed goal. Modric crossed a good corner in and Domagoj Vida headed Croatia in the lead for the first time in this match and Croatia were in the lead with 15 minutes to go.
Five minutes into the last extra half, Daler Kuziajev tested Danijel Subašić on a volley following a corner, but the Monaco goalkeeper saved well. Just minutes later Josip Pivarić gave away a freekick right outside of the area, and Russia had their golden opportunity to equalize. The delivery from Alan Dzagoev was on point, and right back Mario Fernandes headed in Russia’s second goal of the night. Roman Zobnin tested Subašić with a shot from around 20 meters, but the goalkeeper saved the shot and the match went on to a penalty shootout.
Russia started it off and it was Fedor Smolov who was the first one out. The striker tried to chip Subašić, but the Croatian goalkeeper saved the penalty. Marcelo Brozovic scored on his penalty with a good shot from the spot, before Alan Dzagoev scored Russia’s first penalty of the night. Mateo Kovacic was Croatia’s second player to try himself from the spot, but the 24-year old’s penalty got saved when Igor Akinfeev went the right way. Mario Fernandes missed the following penalty when he smashed it wide before Luka Modric stepped up.
The Croatian captain placed his penalty hard down to the left, but Akinfeev guessed the right way. Luckily for Croatia, the CSKA Moscow goalkeeper could not save the penalty, as he touched it before it went into the net after hitting the post. Sergey Ignashevich scored the following penalty, before both goalscorer Domagoj Vida and Daler Kuziajev scored on their penalties. Ivan Rakitić stepped up to take the fifth penalty, and Croatia would win if the Barcelona player scored - as he did in the penalty shootout against Denmark. The former Sevilla player scored with a good penalty and Croatia won the game, and now England awaits on Tuesday.
Luka Modric played yet another good game for Croatia and was named Man of the match, which means that the 33-year old now has three - and most - Man of the match awards of this World Cup. Modric also became the first Croatian player of all time ti attempt over 100 passes in a World Cup game. Mateo Kovacic, who came on as a substitute, didn’t shine but he worked hard and ran a lot. The midfielder missed on his penalty, but it didn’t matter as Croatia still went through.