SAMARA, Russia (CBSSports) — The semifinals are set.
After France, Belgium and England all clinched a spot in the World Cup semis, Croatia joined them on Saturday after beating host Russia 4-3 in penalty kicks. A wild 1-1 match after 90 minutes saw each team score again in extra time, with penalty kicks deciding consecutive matches for both teams.
Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic once again came up big, making some big saves in regulation, one after getting injured, and saving Russia’s first penalty kick. Ivan Rakitic scored the winning penalty as Croatia returns to the semifinals for the first time since 1998.
It was a match that, frankly, was pretty boring for the first 30 minutes. After that, it was far from it, producing one of the most intense, heart-wrenching games we’ve seen in Russia. With the score 0-0 and neither team looking like much of a threat, Russia start Denis Cheryshev scored the opener with one of the goals of the tournament, freezing Subasic from outside the box.
But that lead was short lived. Croatia began to control the ball more and play down the wing, and that’s when Mario Mandzukic found Andrej Kramaric for the equalizer eight minutes later.
The teams then went back and forth in regulation, and neither could find the winner, sending the game into extra time. Both teams went 30 extra minutes in their round of 16 clash, with Russia beating Spain and Croatia beating Denmark.
And in the extra session, it looked like Croatia was well on their way to the victory and avoiding penalty kicks. Domagoj Vida headed home from a corner kick in the 101st minute for the 2-1 lead.
But then, with just five minutes to go, Mario Fernandes played the role of hero, heading home a set piece to make it 2-2.
And in the penalty kicks, Russia lost its composure. Fyodor Smolov tried a cheeky lofted shot to open it, and Subasic read it well to save it. Fernandez went from hero to villain, missing the goal completely on his opportunity, as Rakitic sent his team into the next round.
And with that, the field is set. It’s Belgium vs. France on Tuesday, and England vs. Croatia on Wednesday.