World Cup: Russia 2 Croatia 2 (3-4 on penalties) - 5 things you need to know

Luka Modric (second right) of Croatia celebrates after the match.
Luka Modric (second right) of Croatia celebrates after the match.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Every quarter-final at the 2018 World Cup had been settled in normal regulation time... until Russia and Croatia met in Sochi. While it was never a classic, this game will be warmly remembered by the Croatians for their heroic display as they ground out a 2-2 draw to win 4-3 in the penalty shoot-out. As for the Russians, they had exceeded expectations and deserve praise for being great hosts as well as for their battling qualities on the pitch.

1. Goals

Russia (Denis Cheryshev 31st minute, Mario Fernandes 115th) Croatia (Andrej Kramaric 39th, Domagoj Vida 101st)

2. The wow moment

After half an hour, there was still no goals in Sochi and even worse, neither team could muster an effort on target. That all changed in spectacular style as Cheryshev won the ball in midfield, exchanged a one-two pass with striker Ayrtom Dyzuba before swerving a rocket that dipped into the top corner of the Croatia goal to open the scoring. Most certainly a candidate for the best goal of this World Cup.

3. The talking point

Until the 88th minute, the script for this match read: Two evenly-matched teams battling for semi-final place. Then goalkeeper Danijel Subasic pulls his hamstring but Croatia had already used up all three substitutes allowed for normal time. Subasic soldiered on and he had to as Mario Mandzukic and Sime Vrsaljko both started limping. In the end, coach Zlatko Dalic replaces Vrsaljko with veteran Vedran Corluka. Somehow, even with walking wounded on the pitch and even when Russia roared after Mario Fernandes' late equaliser, Croatia hung on to win after the shoot-out.

4. The star

Luka Modric is the team's star but it is goalkeeper Subasic who got them past the finishing line against Russia. The Monaco custodian was in visible discomfort after pulling his hamstring and only injuries to team-mates prevented his own substitution. But he kept going and pulled off a series of saves in extra-time before reading Fyodor Smolov's intention of a cheeky Panenka penalty in the shoot-out. This man deserves a medal for his performance... and also treatment pronto.

5. What the result means

Croatia repeat the feat of their illustrious predecessors of 1998 by reaching the semi-finals. This time, they will face a resurgent England side in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on July 12 (Singapore time). This World Cup campaign is also probably the last time for a cohort of talented players like Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mandzukic to sign off with international silverware. As for Russia, they need not take defeat too badly. They had gone further than what most had predicted. They started the tournament with little hope and there were genuine fears that they could go out in the group stage. But they delivered some great results, most notably dumping Spain out in the last 16, and players like Cheryshev, Artem Dzyuba and Akinfeev all did their reputations a power of good. The task now is to build on that for Euro 2020 qualification.