SOCHI, Russia — Croatia and Russia got to their quarterfinal matchup Saturday night in Sochi by winning shootouts in the round of 16, Croatia edging Denmark and Russia upsetting Spain. After scoring minutes apart in regulation and again in extra time, it would come to penalties again as Croatia and Russia tussled for the right to play England in the semifinals.
Here's a kick-by-kick look at how Croatia ended the host nation's unexpected run and became just the second team ever to win back-to-back World Cup shootouts.
Russian striker Fedor Smolov stepped up to face Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, who had tied the record of three saves in a World Cup shootout in shutting down Denmark but now was limping from a hamstring injury that had left him unable to take goal kicks. Smolov fired low and to the left but well inside the post, and Subasic batted it away with his left hand as he fell, tying another record in the process: most shootout saves in a single World Cup.
Marcelo Brozovic wasted no time taking advantage, roofing his shot to Igor Akinfeev's left as the Russian goalkeeper moved to his right.
Alan Dzagoev equalized for the hosts with a crisp, low shot to Subasic's left as the 'keeper leaned the other way.
Russian captain Akinfeev, who pulled off two saves of his own in the shootout against Spain , gave his team another lifeline. Mateo Kovacic's shot was heading inside the right post when a fully stretched Akinfeev just managed to touch it wide.
Mario Fernandes had scored with five minutes left in the two-hour match to send the home fans into a frenzy and the game to a shootout, and his blood may still have been pumping fast when he stepped to the spot. The Brazilian-born fullback ripped his shot low and well outside the left post, just the second time in 40 shootout attempts this tournament that a shooter was off target.
Luka Modric stepped toward the ball, hesitating to see whether Akinfeev would commit to either side. The Croatia captain fired low and to the left, and Akinfeev read it correctly but could only deflect it onto the post and into the net, leaping up and shouting in frustration.
Veteran defender Sergei Ignashevich, persuaded to come out of international retirement in the run up to the World Cup, bloodlessly buried the ball in the lower left corner, betraying no emotion as he brought his team level again.
Domagoj Vida, who had scored what appeared sure to be the game-winner on a header in the first period of extra time, put Croatia in front again, this time rippling the mesh inside the left post to keep the pressure on Russia.
If Daler Kuziaev felt that pressure, it didn't show. The Russian midfielder coolly knocked his attempt into the left corner as Subasic guessed the other way.
Taking his team's final kick for the second straight game, Ivan Rakitic sized up Akinfeev and stepped toward the ball. Against Denmark, Rakitic went right, and that's where Akinfeev guessed. This time Rakitic went left, and the results were the same: Croatia was moving on.