Croatia will face Russia in the quarterfinals on Saturday evening in Sochi after beating Denmark 3-2 in a penalty shootout on Sunday. Russia upset Spain in a penalty shootout earlier on Sunday.
After a frantic start, Croatia and Denmark went to 30 minutes of extra time after their group-of-16 World Cup match tied at 1-1.
Croatia and Denmark went to a penalty shootout for a spot in the World Cup quarterfinals after Luka Modric missed a chance to break a 1-1 deadlock five minutes left in extra time. There was no better chance to score again until the 116th minute when Modric took a spot kick that could have won it for Croatia. But his right-foot shot was comfortably saved by Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Danijel Subasic made three saves in the shootout to hep Croatia beat Denmark 3-2 on penalties.
Both of the regular time goals came in the first four minutes in Nizhny Novgorod. Mathias Jorgensen gave Denmark the lead after only 58 seconds, and Mario Mandzukic equalized in the 4th minute. The second half saw far fewer attacking chances with both teams playing more cautiously.
Mathias Jorgensen scored for Denmark in the 1st minute, getting the goal after a scramble in the area with the shot deflecting off Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.
Mario Mandzukic equalized in the 4th minute, capitalizing on a series of Danish blunders to score from short range behind Kasper Schmeichel.
The goal was only the second given up by Denmark in its last eight matches. The Danes were unbeaten in their last 18 matches.
Five penalties were saved by Danijel Subasic and Kasper Schmeichel during the shoot-out, with the latter also saving one in the final minutes of extra time.
Croatia goalie Danijel Subasic saved three spot-kicks, including the opener from Christian Eriksen. Subasic equals the World Cup record for most saves in a shootout, equaling the mark set by Portugal’s Ricardo against England in 2006.
“It is a strange feeling. There is enormous disappointment but also huge pride in our performance. We had the opportunity and I think we were the better team in the second half. It is hard to put all the emotions into words at the moment.” Man of the Match Schmeichel said.
“Our three best players for penalties all missed their penalties today. I feel sorry for Kasper and the whole team. But that is what can happen in penalties, and is the brutality of football. Croatia are the best team in Europe for counter-attacks. Having control was important and I thought we had that in the second half.” Denmark coach, Age Hareide said.
“It was very hot, and very hard to run. It was hard for me to miss the penalty spot because I had been studying the whole morning how to score it against Schmeichel.” Luka Modric said.
“We stayed mentally strong, controlled and we won eventually. This is a reward for all our hard work, and that makes it all the sweeter.So far we have played well, and won in superior fashion. But you have to have difficult moments. We haven’t played a great game, not like the level of our first three games. My faith in my players is even stronger after such a game like tonight. He [Danijel Subasic] was a hero tonight. He saved three penalties in the shoot-out and you don’t see that every day. He pulled us out tonight when we needed it and congratulations to him.” Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said.
A total of 32 national football teams are participating in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, held in 11 cities across Russia between June 14 and July 15.
The teams were divided into eight groups, with four in each, and the top two from their relevant groups proceeded to the next round, known as the playoffs or the knockout stage, to keep vying for the much-coveted FIFA World Cup Trophy.
Russia is holding its first time ever edition of the FIFA World Cup, which kicked off in Moscow with a spectacular opening show at the Luzhniki Stadium on the night of June 14. The World Cup is being held at 12 arenas across 11 cities with the final set to be played at Luzhniki on July 15. The 11 host cities are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.