The round of 16 fixtures on matchday 17 went to another crescendo with both games needing spot kicks to decide who qualifies for the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
Spain paid for their lack of creativity in front of goal as they were punished via the spot kicks by a tactically sound Russian team. In the other all European affair between Denmark and Croatia, both sides started on a flyer by canceling each other out in the opening 10 minutes only for the game to drag on to extra-time before ending in a grueling penalty kick.
RUSSIA 1 SPAIN 1 (5-3 PENALTIES) (Moscow)
The host nation booked their quarter-final spot after eliminating the 2010 winners in a nerve-wracking round of penalties that ended 5-3.
The Spaniards dominated the match throughout, enjoying a large chunk of possession(75%) and attempting twice as many shots on goal. The breakthrough finally came in the 11th minute when Marco Asensio whipped in a dangerous free-kick to the back post, where Sergei Ignashevich attempted to mark Sergio Ramos but, instead, deflected the ball into his net.
Russia couldn’t keep up with the opponents high tempo and struggled to find an opening. They were somehow rewarded for their effort to press forward in the 41st minute when Barcelona defender Pique handled the ball from a corner. Artem Dzyuba stepped up and sent De Gea to the wrong side to level the score. Fernando Hierro’s men dominated the game in the second half but couldn’t break down the Russian back line.
In extra time, the two teams tried to find a winner but had to settle for penalties. Both sides buried their first two penalties before Koke saw his attempt saved by Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev. Russia’s Alexandr Golovin gave the Russians the lead. Sergio Ramos and Denis Cheryshev traded penalties, setting up a final attempt by Iago Aspas to keep the Spaniards alive. The young Spaniard was not up to the task, however, as Akinfeev made an acrobatic stop to give Russia a berth in the quarterfinals.
CROATIA 1 DENMARK 1 (3-2 PENALTIES) (Nizhny Novgorod)
Croatia defeated Denmark 3-2 in a penalty shootout, progressing to the quarterfinals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The Danes raced to an early lead in the first two minutes after a fantastic attacking play allowed Mathias Jorgensen to squeeze in the opening of the night. The celebrations didn’t last long as Croatia fought with an equalizer back two minutes later thanks to Mario Mandzukic who punished the error of the Danish defense.
Both teams could not find the winning goal, sending the match to extra time. Croatia had a golden chance to put the game to bed in the 115th minute of the game only for Modric’s effort to be saved by Danish goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel forcing the game to spot kicks.
This time Danijel Subasic stole the show with his saves on three occasions allowing Ivan Rakitic to score and send Croatia through to the quarterfinals.