World Cup: Spain 1 Russia 1 - 5 things you need to know

Russia's Igor Akinfeev celebrates with team mates after winning the penalty shootout at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia, on July 1, 2018.
Russia's Igor Akinfeev celebrates with team mates after winning the penalty shootout at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia, on July 1, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

Russia put on a defensive masterclass in the round of 16 to beat Spain 4-3 on penalties in the first game of the 2018 World Cup to go beyond 90 minutes on Sunday (July 1). The tournament hosts defended heroically, soaking up more than a thousand passes' worth of Spanish pressure to drag the game to spot kicks.

Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was the hero as he kept out two spot kicks from Koke and Iago Aspas, the latter via an outstretched foot.

An own goal from Sergei Ignashevich put Spain in front before the Russians equalised through an Artem Dzyuba penalty after Gerard Pique's handball in the box.

The Russians were never expected to sparkle offensively but what was surprising was how sluggish Spain looked when pushing forward. La Roja finished the first half without a single shot on target and just four touches in the Russian penalty area.

Here's the lowdown for the game:

1. THE GOALS

Spain 1 (Ignashevich (og) 12th) Russia (Dzyuba (p) 41st)

2. THE WOW MOMENT

Russia's defence was nearly superhuman as they closed down the more talented Spaniards without flagging for 120 minutes, maintaining their shape and never allowing themselves to be exposed even when they mounted a rare counterattack.

Spain strung together a total of 1006 passes to Russia's 290, but much of that was horizontal as the 2010 World Cup champions simply could not find a way past the Russians' Iron Curtain.

3. THE TALKING POINT

Pundits, fans and conspiracy theorists will be talking themselves hoarse about just what Gerard Pique was doing when he conceded a penalty to Russia after Dzyuba's header thumped into his outstretched arm.

To be fair to the Barcelona man , his back was to Dzyuba and the ball when the cross came in - much like his opposite number Sergei Ignashevich for the latter's own goal. At the same time, you have to wonder what a defender of Pique's calibre and experience was doing jumping in the box with his arm raised that high.

4. THE STAR

Igor Akinfeev. Any day you save two penalties in a shootout is a good day. A case could also be made for right-back Ilya Kutepov, whose effort, positioning and timing were all impeccable. Still, it's difficult to see a Kutepov interception making the highlight reel over Akinfeev saving the Iago Aspas spot kick.

5. WHAT THE RESULT MEANS

Facing their first ever World Cup shootout the Russians kept their nerve in front of the home crowd to send pre-tournament favourites Spain home in the round of 16. They will face either Croatia or Denmark in the quarter-finals and have every chance of winning if they can put on a defensive performance equal to today's effort and stifle their opponents. It's ugly football but ultimately winning football.

Spain say goodbye to the World Cup and the last few members of their Golden Generation in the likes of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Sergio Ramos. With all the talent at their disposal, Spain have to be regretting letting the first hour or so slip away. Russia defended well, but Spain also took too long to get going.