FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways, Russia vs Croatia, 2-2 (3-4 pens.)

FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways, Russia vs Croatia, 2-2 (3-4 pens.)

by Sajeesh Soman / 9 months ago

FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways, Russia vs Croatia, 2-2 (3-4 pens.)


Russia’s fairytale run came to an end after losing 4-3 on penalties to Croatia following an incredibly tight contest that ended even stevens at 2-2.


Denis Cheryshev got on target once again with a beautiful strike, but Andrej Kramaric equalised for the Blazers soon after. Demagoj Vida then appeared to have sealed it for them in the extra-time, but Mario Fernandes headed home to force another shootout.


Fyodor Smolov and Fernandes fluffed their lines, once again allowing Ivan Rakitic to finish the job, much like he did in the previous round against Denmark.


Croatia are into their first semi-final in 20 years and will play England in Luzhniki on Tuesday.


The major takeaways:


#1 Cheryshev is hell bent on ‘Goal of the tournament’ award


Denis Cheryshev has been a revelation for Russia in the competition, who also appeares to have resuscitated his fading career with his scoring prowess in the tournament proper. With another strike, he joined Lukaku and Ronaldo on the charts with 4 each, but this one was straight out of the top drawer.


Dzyuba slipped one around the Croatian defense that the former Real Madrid man collects and takes a forward step before rifling it into the far corner. Another slice of genuine quality from Cheryshev, and also a potential contender for the ‘Goal of the tournament’ award. Three of his strikes have been ridiculously good, but the latest one might surpass his trivela against Saudi Arabia on the opening day.


When the montage of the best goals would be made after the finals, expect two of those strikes to shine bright among the others. Or maybe even clinch the gong.


#2 Dalic errs, but then redeems himself


Croatian manager Zlatko Dalic played the likes of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in the holding midfield role in a 4-2-3-1 against Denmark that severely hampered their offensive game. He repeated the trick against Russia today and the dynamic midfield duo resultantly appeared very limited in the offering. Dalic soon realised his mistake and reverted to a 4-3-3 by subbing of Ivan Perisic and bringing on Marcelo Brozovic with extra-time lurking around the corner.


Almost immediately, the two then appeared brighter going forward with the freedom afforded. Modric and Rakitic surged forward and linked up in the attacking areas with quick and slick passing to open up the Russian backline. The Real Madrid star in fact, would go on to put on a man of the match display.


#4 Croatia survive another day, but England can get to them


For the second game running, Croatia (50/1 pre-tournament outsiders) came through only on shootouts after being held in normal time. It may not be the most ideal way to make it to the semi-finals, but the Blazers wouldn’t mind as long as it is keeping them in the competition. But against England, they run the risk of going out of lives. Several chinks have been exposed on their armor for the Three Lions to exploit.


For starters, the set-piece vulnerability. For the second game running, Croatia conceded a set-piece goal. England on the other hand, are the best side in such situations in this competition. Then Chershev’s strike was pure quality, but the Croatian defense let him the space to work his magic. The likes of Lingard and Ali can exploit too if afforded the same. Croatia also appeared to come up short on the break.


England against Croatia have served up some delightful fixtures in the past, and the latest one would be just as promising. But unless Croatia don’t heed to the shortcomings, their World Cup run is at a risk of ending.


#5 Russia’s dream ends, but can hold their heads high


Russia were the lowest ranked side coming into the tournament at 70. Many didn’t even expect them to get past the group stages with Uruguay and Egypt touted to finish as the top two. But Russia (750/1 pre-tournament outsiders) tore script apart to finishe runners-up behind the Celeste, but truly blew the odds of water by beating Spain in the last 16.


That was a watershed moment in the country’s history, who not only pulled off one of it biggest upsets in World Cup, but also made it to the last 8 for the first time since the breakup of Soviet Union. Russia had already surpassed all expectations, but didn’t settle and put up another fight today to hold Croatia right until the very end. Fernandes’ equaliser five minutes from time was a reflection of the fighting spirit this side have imbued right from the opening day.


Russia’s fairytale run may have ended, but can still hold their heads high.



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