Croatia show their mettle

The entire Croatia squad piling on Ivan Rakitic after he scored the deciding penalty during the shoot-out. It is only the second time Croatia have reached the semi-finals of the World Cup. They finished third in France in 1998.
The entire Croatia squad piling on Ivan Rakitic after he scored the deciding penalty during the shoot-out. It is only the second time Croatia have reached the semi-finals of the World Cup. They finished third in France in 1998.PHOTO: REUTERS

Despite tiring shoot-outs against Danes and Russians, Modric says they have enough rest

SOCHI • Croatia captain Luka Modric said his side showed character on Saturday to get through "another drama" after edging to a second straight shoot-out win to knock Russia out of the World Cup and set up a semi-final with England.

Zlatko Dalic's men thought they had won the game when centre-back Domagoj Vida put them in front in extra time, only for Russia's Mario Fernandes to head home in the 115th minute and snatch a thrilling 2-2 draw.

Real Madrid midfielder Modric said: "Maybe it is written in the stars that we had to go through the extra drama. We have played two matches of 120 minutes of football in six days, and of course this will leave a mark on you but... we have shown our character."

There was more drama yesterday when Fifa announced that it was investigating Vida after he had posting a clip dedicating the victory to Ukraine. The 29-year-old shouted "Glory to Ukraine!" in a video posted by former Croatia international Ognjen Vukojevic shortly after the match.

The slogan was part of the former Soviet republic's pro-EU revolution that toppled a Russian-backed president in 2014 and the video angered Russian officials, who urged Fifa to take the toughest measures possible against the Balkan country.

But Fifa said it had studied the video and decided to issue a warning to Vida but would take no further measures.

  • Croatia are the second side to progress from a penalty shoot-out in consecutive knockout games in a World Cup after Argentina in 1990.

  • 14

    Goals out of 20 that Russia conceded at the World Cup as an independent nation have been from set pieces.

Russia's Denis Cheryshev opened the scoring in the 31st minute, before Andrej Kramaric equalised for Croatia. The Croats won 4-3 on penalties.

They had also needed spot kicks to get past a dogged Denmark in the last 16, but Modric insisted they would not be tired for the last-four clash against England.

"We have enough time to rest and prepare well," he said. "We expect a very difficult, tight and demanding match... We saw how good they are from dead balls so we will have to focus more on defending set pieces."

It is only the second time that Croatia have reached the World Cup semi-finals. They finished third in 1998.

Croatia's long periods of possession were largely unproductive, the final pass was invariably missing and they were surprised by Russia's aggressive approach.

Up front, Mario Mandzukic was leaden and static with a strike rate of only a goal in four games.

Inter Milan's Ivan Perisic and Eintracht Frankfurt's Ante Rebic were also disappointing. Ivan Rakitic, so often a key man in midfield for Barcelona, was not nearly as influential as at club level.

Thousands of Russian fans, meanwhile, thanked their disappointed players yesterday.

"You were not the 12th player - you were the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th players," Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov told the crowd gathered on a scenic hill overlooking Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. "We felt your support... We have succeeded I believe, but it is time to take a step forward."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2018, with the headline 'Croatia show their mettle'. Print Edition | Subscribe