World Cup penalty drama sets up Croatia against host Russia

Agence France-Presse
Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic plays hero as Croatia downs Denmark in shootout to advance to the quarterfinals

 HISTORIC. Croatia's Danijel Subasic becomes the first goalkeeper in 12 years  to save 3 in a penalty shootout since Portugal's Ricardo against England. Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP

NIZHNIY NOVGOROD, Russia – Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic emerged as the hero as Croatia squeezed into the World Cup quarterfinals with a penalty shootout victory over Denmark here Sunday, July 1.

On a night of late drama, Ivan Rakitic stroked home the decisive spotkick to ensure the Croats advanced to a last 8 meeting with Russia after the two sides finished locked at 1-1 following extra-time. (READ: Akinfeev stars as Russia knocks out Spain on penalties)

The Barcelona midfielder’s winner came after Milan Badelj and Josip Pivaric saw their penalties saved by Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who also saved an extra time penalty from Luka Modric.

But Danes Christian Eriksen, Lasse Schone and Nicolai Jorgensen were thwarted by Subasic in the shootout to ensure Croatia won 3-2 and advanced to their first quarterfinals since the 1998 World Cup in France.

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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Half way there…<br><br>Two quarter-finals decided, two to go, with this confirmed tonight <br><br>Sat 7 July, 21:00<br>Russia vs Croatia <br>Sochi<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/RUSCRO?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#RUSCRO</a> <a href=”https://t.co/EQz4X33hu2″>pic.twitter.com/EQz4X33hu2</a></p>&mdash; FIFA World Cup  (@FIFAWorldCup) <a href=”https://twitter.com/FIFAWorldCup/status/1013528178990682112?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>July 1, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Coach Zlatko Dalic said he wanted Croatia’s World Cup adventure to continue past the quarterfinals.  

“We have come so far but we don’t intend to stop here,” Dalic said of his team that has been tipped for World Cup glory.

Sunday’s win over Denmark was secured in the same stadium, Nizhny Novgorod, where the Croats thumped Argentina 3-0 in the group stage.

But this was a far more difficult game for Croatia, who came from behind after conceding a goal in the second minute and being on the backfoot for most of the second half.

 Dalic said his team “played for the result,” and he was unconcerned about the performance.

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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Only one keeper has saved 3 penalties in a shoot-out before Danijel Subasic<br><br>It happened exactly on this day in 2006 – approximately 12 years &amp; 3 hours ago, when Ricardo helped <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/POR?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#POR</a> knock out <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ENG?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ENG</a><br><br>With Schmeichel also saving 3 today, 1 July is clearly a day for keepers!<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/CRODEN?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#CRODEN</a> <a href=”https://t.co/sAVJewO2yP”>pic.twitter.com/sAVJewO2yP</a></p>&mdash; FIFA World Cup  (@FIFAWorldCup) <a href=”https://twitter.com/FIFAWorldCup/status/1013525988553252864?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>July 1, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Victory came after 3 penalty saves from keeper Subasic in the shootout, the first keeper to do that since Portugal’s Ricardo against England in 2006.

“You have to earn your luck and the lads earned theirs,” he added. “Without luck you cannot do anything in life.”

Dalic said Subasic won them the game but he was also full of praise for Luka Modric after the Croatian skipper missed a 116th minute extra time penalty but volunteered to take another penalty in the shootout. 

“He said it himself, ‘I am going to take a penalty in the shootout,’

“Can you imagine what would have happened if he had not scored, but he’s a great player.”

 Unlucky 

 Denmark coach Age Hareide said he thought his team was unlucky not to win.

“I think we had a good chance against Croatia, I think we played a good match,” he said.

Hareide added that he had set up his team to deny Modric and his midfield partner Ivan Rakitic – who struck the winning penalty in the shootout – space as he described the Croats as the best counter-attacking team in Europe.

Danish keeper Kasper Schmeichel won the man of the match award for his penalty saves, two more followed in the shootout, but said the result was a “huge disappointment.” 

“I don’t think we had much luck, I don’t think the referee liked us today, it’s very difficult to accept, it’s difficult to put into words,” he said.

Frantic start    

The dramatic ending followed early excitement – but little in between. 

In an astonishing start to the match, both teams scored within 4 minutes via their first attacks. 

First, Mathias Jorgensen turned home in the second minute after Croatia failed to clear a long throw-in from Jonas Knudsen, the defender’s shot creeping under Subasic to give Denmark the perfect start.

But any hopes they could hold onto their lead vanished within 90 seconds.

With the Nizhny Novgorod stadium still rocking from the frantic start, Croatia went upfield and promptly equalized.

Again, the goal owed more than a little to bad defending when a Sime Vrsaljko cross was hammered by Henrik Dalsgaard into fellow Dane Andreas Christensen and the ball fell obligingly in the penalty area to Mario Mandzukic who scored.

The explosive start – both sides hit the back of the net within 3 minutes and 37 seconds – was officially the quickest two teams have ever scored in a World Cup finals match.

The following 116 minutes though largely failed to live up to the first 4, fireworks giving way to a damp squib of an encounter as the game edged inexorably towards extra time and penalties.

Billed as a clash between the opposing number 10s, Modric and Eriksen, it instead became increasingly attritional and tactical, with both playmakers unable to find any space. 

Instead the player who created most chances was Knudsen with his long throws.

Few clear chances were created by either side until Modric’s late penalty miss.

That came after Ante Rebic was fouled in the 116th minute Mathias Jorgensen, with the goal at his mercy.

Modric stepped up but side-footed weakly and Schmeichel made the first of his 3 penalty saves on the night, all in vain, as his legendary goalkeeping father Peter punched the air in delight as he watched on in the stands. – Rappler.com