Penalty Mayhem as Ivan Rakitić Sends Croatia Into the Semi Finals #290

Croatia 2 Russia 2 (4-3 Croatia on Pens)

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In this quarter final we would see to Dark Horse teams coming off shootout victories in the round of 16. The hosts Russia pulling off one of the biggest upsets in the tournament beating Spain in a penalty shootout to reach this stage. The Russians were searching for only their second semi final ever. Being the host country always helps and this world cup it hasn’t been any different but the lowest ranked team in the tournament playing on home soil has been one of the shocks in this world cup. Russia getting to the quarter-final especially beating Spain on its way was something no one expected. Meanwhile their opponents Croatia were also coming off a shootout victory over Denmark Croatia is always a team that I feel is a likely Dark Horse candidate in whatever tournament they are in because of their world-class players. However they surprised everyone on how well they have done and just like Russia going into the quarter-finals they were searching for only their second World Cup semi-final. This matchup between the two underdogs turned out to be an absolutely thrilling match that required 120 Minutes to find a winner. But eventually we found one in a long back-and-forth game that turned out to be an absolute classic. Croatia were favorites but that didn’t stop Russia on taking an early lead. Krameric equalized for Croatia before the game required extra time. After time Croatia struck first as the game looked over but just a few minutes before the end of extra time Russia equalized forcing another penalty shootout for both teams. Despite the injury to the Croatian goalkeeper he became a hero again and a tough shootout Croatia would send the hosts out of their tournament. As Croatia make their first World Cup semi finals since 1998 they will play England this coming Wednesday for a place in the final up for grabs.

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The hosts Russia despite not expecting to advance placed second in their group only to Uruguay. Their second place finish ultimately set up a matchup in the round of 16 against European heavyweight Spain. A team that has won three of the last five International tournaments Spain was heavily favored very few even gave Russia a chance. As you can imagine Russia was completely was played but because of the smart decision making they found themselves in the game. Russia ended up scoring own goal in the first half but were given a penalty right before the end of the half evening up the game. In the second half Russia played extremely defensive football despite Spain dominating the possession by a large margin Russia did their best to hold on for dear life with the attempt and desire to get to a penalty shootout. Russia knew it was the best chance for them to win the game. They got to extra time and they continue to defend superbly. They got their wish getting into the penalty shootout with a 50-50 chance at advancing past the almighty Spain. Russia’s goalkeeper was the hero saving to penalties on their way to knocking out Spain shocking the world advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time in a long time. Croatia ended up by surprise winning their group avoiding France in the process as they ended up being matched up with Denmark in the round of 16. Giving Croatia a chance to make a quarter finals to solidify their Dark Horse status. They had a similar Road to get to the quarter-finals as Russia did as their game also ended up coming down to penalties. In the round of 16 it was an underwhelming performance as the quality they showed during the group stage didn’t quite carryover in which the way they wanted it to. in opening 10 minutes there were two goals. Christian Eriksen gave Denmark the lead in the opening minutes before Mario Mandzukic equalized about 6 minutes later. It stayed steady pretty much the rest of the way Croatia weren’t at their best but had many chances to win the game unfortunately for them Kasper schmeichel was Unreal in goal for Denmark. In extra time Croatia was given a penalty with barely any time remaining and the unthinkable happened Luka Modric had his penalty saved by schmeichel as this forced a penalty shootout with Denmark having all the momentum. It became an excellent penalty shootout with saves coming off left and right this time Kasper schmeichel wasn’t the hero it was Croatia’s  Danijel Subašić saving a World Cup record three penalties in the shootout as Croatia ultimately knocked out Denmark on penalties to make the quarter-finals.

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On Match Day in the World Cup quarter-finals with a pair of unlikely Representatives it turned into an extraordinary exciting game it lived up to the hype which is what the world cup is all about. In the opening parts the game Croatia was very strong and did pretty well in the Midfield. However once again it wasn’t their strongest game something that will need to be adjusted. This was evidently clear when despite being heavy underdogs Russia took the lead. Russia’s Denis Cheryshev opened the eyes of a with a Long Ranger with his left foot that was one of the best goals that we have seen at this world cup to give them the 1-0 lead. Croatia hit back quickly with Andre karmic putting his head through a Mario Mandzukic cross to equalize making it 1-1. Both teams went after it over the remaining minutes of Regulation. It would not be enough neither Croatia or Russia could find the back of the net meaning it would take extra time to decide the winner. In the first period of extra-time Croatia took the lead with a header goal from Vida to make it 2-1 in favor of Croatia. The match would continue during the second portion of extra time Croatia’s goalkeeper picked up an injury after dealing with it he decided to try to play through it. Croatia was Within 10 minutes of qualifying for the semi-final unfortunately and the 110th minute Russia found the back of the net to equalize making it 2-2. Once again it would come down to the dreaded penalty shootout something both Russia and Croatia had to do to get to this point. It was a back-and-forth shootout once again with Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subašić once again being the hero saving the first penalty as well as having a penalty missed by Russia. On Croatia’s last kick up stepped Ivan rakitic with a chance to put Croatia into the semi-finals the Barcelona midfielder buried it in the bottom corner as Croatia advances to the semi-finals where they will face England. Croatia will face England in the semi-final in a game that I believe is very hard to call. Most in the media consider England to be favorites but I’m not so sure that’s true I would say going into this match Croatia has a slight advantage. A very slight one considering how well England played against Sweden. The reason Croatia has an advantage in this game is because of their Midfield that features Luka Modric Ivan rakitic and Ivan perisic the Croatian in Midfield has has done an exceptional job for much of this tournament. This and this alone is why I see Croatia slight favorites. England has a fantastic chance advancing to their first World Cup final since 1966 especially with the way there goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has played throughout this tournament. This is a very evenly-matched game England is coming off their best performance of the World Cup while Croatia has struggled in their last two games on current form England are the better team but it’s only been sustained for a short period of time they were not that great against Colombia. Against Sweden they were exceptional and if they can maintain that it could become very hard for Croatia. However if Croatia can find their form that they had during the group stage there’s no doubt that they have everything it takes to get to their first ever World Cup final.

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