Croatia advanced to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup with a 4-3 penalty shoot-out win over Russia after 120 minutes in Sochi finished 2-2 on Saturday.
Despite having the better of the opening five minutes, Russia lived dangerously as Ante Rebic’s header from a central position narrowly missed the target.
A decent opportunity went begging for the Croats after Sime Vrsaljko created space down the right to pick out Mario Mandzukic, who skied the ball over from seven yards out.
In truth, very little happened after 25 minutes, although Croatia had the better of things, controlling possession and creating a couple of half-decent opportunities, with neither converted.
As half-time approached, Andre Kramaric propped up the equaliser, heading in Ivan Perisic’s low cross six minutes to the interval.
A second goal nearly fell for Croatia early in the second half, but Perisic struck the post after composing himself nicely from a loose ball inside the box.
Struggling with injury late on and extra time looming, Daniejl Subasic was able to shake of those concerns amongst the red and white faithful and continued playing the next 30 minutes.
It took 10 minutes of extra-time for the tie to swing as Croatia took the lead for the first time in the game through the head of Domagoj Vida from a corner by Marcelo Brozovic.
The home crowd spurred the Russians on and Daler Kuzyayev fired a half-volley at Subasic, who handled firmly.
The hosts’ equaliser came with five minutes remaining in the second half of extra-time when Mario Fernandes made space for himself to nod home Alan Dzagoev’s free-kick, sending the home base into delirium.
After 120 minutes played, neither side was able to find the winner, sending the contest to a dreaded penalty shoot-out.
Spot-kicks was embroiled with agony and ecstasy and, after two misses from Russia, Ivan Rakitic fired home to put Croatia into the semi-finals, where they will face England in Moscow on Wednesday.
Russia: Akinfeev; Mario Fernandes, Ignashevich, Kutepov, Kudryashov; Zobnin, Kuzyaev; Samedov, Golovin, Cheryshev; Dzyuba.
Croatia: Subasic; Vrsaljko, Vida, Lovren, Strinic; Rakitic, Modric; Rebic, Kramaric, Perisic; Mandzukic.
Report by Kickoff