Croatia will face England in the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia after squeaking past the hosts in an anxious match in the Sochi heat after a tense penalty shoot-out.
The country exploded as the centre back Domagoj Vida scored a header from a corner in the 100th minute of extra-time and Croatia thought they had done enough in the energy-sapping conditions but the hosts never gave up and equalized in the 115 minute through a Mario Fernandes header.
Croatia win it in an intense penalty shoot-out, after a tense match in the summer humidity of Sochi, Croatia celebrate in wild scenes. Ivan Rakitic fired home the winning penalty to put Croatia through 4 – 3 on penalties, what a night in Sochi, what drama in Russia. Danijel Subasic pulled off a magnificent save and once again, as he did against Denmark, pulled Croatia back from the brink of elimination.
Russia opened the scoring with a wonder strike from Denis Cheryshev after 31 minutes. Even though Croatia had dominated the early possession, with around 65 percent, they struggled to find a way through the tough and uncompromising Russian defence.
On 39 minutes they managed to find a chink in the hosts armour and Andrej Kramaric headed in the level the game 1 -1. The rest of the first half was stalemate with the Russians looking to counter-attack with Croatian, through the captain Luka Modric, held a stronghold in the midfield.
With a deafening roar from the home fans in the Fisht Olympic Stadium where clearly the vast majority were Russians the second half began at the continuation of Croatian dominance and Russian counter-attacking. The nail-biting continued as the match went into extra time. And as the Croatia President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, looked on the national team summed up one more atom of energy to crack the tough Russian nut.
After winning their group, with three wins out of three, Croatia had a dramatic win in the first round of the knock-out stages over Denmark on penalties. The swagger and confidence of the group games have been replaced with hard-work and determination in the later stages, but their luck in the roulette of penalties continues.
Croatia is awash with red and white, fireworks and song fill the night sky as their heroes move onto to another World Cup adventure, this time a semi-final against England for a place in the final on Wednesday the 11th of July in Moscow.