World Cup Recap: Round of 16 Day 2
Penalties needed as Croatia outlasts Denmark and Russia shocks Spain
The round of 16 in the 2018 FIFA World Cup continued on Sunday with Spain taking on host nation Russia and Croatia facing Denmark. Ninety minutes was not enough as both encounters went to extra time and, eventually, penalties.
Spain 1-1 Russia (3-4 on penalties)
Luzhniki Stadium Moscow
When the knockout round matchups were complete, it looked as though Spain had a clear path to the final. Instead, the 2010 champs were one-and-done at the hands of the host nation. Things started off promising for La Furia Roja as Sergio Ramos forced an own-goal from Russia’s Sergei Ignashevich in the 12th minute of the match. The reality is Spain spent too much time with the ball at their feet but not enough time doing anything with it. The Spanish were outshot 5-3 but the most impactful moment came on a defensive lapse. Defender Gerard Pique was called for a handball inside the bos and Artyom Dzyuba would convert the penalty to tie things at 1-1.
Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was the Man of the Match for his performance with two saves in the first half, three in the second half and four in extra time. Spain’s goalkeeper David De Gea was untested and didn’t record a single save throughout the 120 minutes. Spain finished with 25 shots (nine on target) while Russia only created six shots with one direct to goal. After a deadlock through extra time, the penalty shootout would decide who advanced.
Smolov, Ignashevich, Golovin and Cheryshev all converted their penalties for Russia while Koke and Iago Aspas would fail to convert for Spain. As a result, Russia advances to the quarterfinals to face Croatia.
Analysis: Spain was clearly not as strong as we all thought they were but they were still strong enough to get past Russia. What happened on Sunday will go down as a huge setback for a Spanish national team that was enjoying the best era in their football history. The golden age that brought Spain the 2010 World Cup title as well as back-to-back European Championships is now an afterthought. The Spanish national team could not reclaim the glory of their best days and, as 2010 World Cup final hero Andres Iniesta bids farewell to the national team, the team will surely get a new influx of youth. Spain is filled with talent, however, and will surely field a team that can contest for Euro 2020. First, they’ll need a new Manager after their former one was fired just days before Russia 2018.
The host nation knew what they had to do to give themselves a chance to win - and they accomplished it. Some will say it was boring football and a shameful display of “the beautiful game” but the end result is the only thing that matters, frankly. Team Russia, backed by its home fans, has reached the farthest stage in their World Cup history and are one win away from assuring to match their best performance of the Soviet Union national team - who finished fourth at England 1966. Will they be able to outlast Croatia with a compact defense? We’ll have to tune in on July 7 to find out.
Notable stat: Russia won their first penalty shootout at a FIFA World Cup.
Croatia 1-1 Denmark (3-2 on penalties)
Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod
This one got off to a hot start. Denmark’s Mathias Jorgensen scored off a throw in to surprise goalkeeper Danijel Subasic in the first minute. Unfortunately for the Danes, Croatia would answer back just three minutes later after Mario Mandzukic won a ball inside the box to tie the game. Croatia would be the team to generate more quality opportunities but the match would remain a draw through 90 minutes. Denmark keeper Kasper Schmeichel had two saves in the first half, two in the second and three in extra time while Subasic for Croatia only had two all match. Besides the scores, the other influential play was a denial of a goal scoring opportunity by Denmark’s Jorgensen. Croatia had now the best opportunity to get the win in the 115th minute - five removed from full time - but an exhausted Luka Modric failed the spot kick. The match would go to penalties.
With both teams exhausted, there were multiple misses on both sides. FC Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic scored the winning penalty as the shootout went to the fifth attempt to advance Croatia to the quarterfinals.
Analysis: Croatia is enjoying their best World Cup performance since France 1998. They suffered on Sunday against Denmark but at times showed their class, not being able to take the lead. They are lucky to not have lost in penalties but can see this as new life and confidence as they go forward to face Russia. The host nation will most likely be compact like they were against Spain so Croatia’s midfielders will be challenged to break them open. The good news is they count on some of the best midfielders in the world today. Getting to the semis would be huge for Croatia.
Denmark, on the other hand, will feel heartbroken. They knew their limitations but could not have executed their game plan better. They made life hard for Croatia’s attack. Schmeichel could not have had a better day in goal and it’s a shame his team could not finished the rest of the job. Perhaps their best opportunity to win it was just before the end of the second half but no one showed the quality to get them the win. The biggest criticism, and deservedly so, will fall on Tottenham playmaker Christian Eriksen. After being invisible for most of the match, Eriksen had the opportunity to be the hero and instill confidence by making the first penalty in the shootout. Had he made it, this recap would’ve been written differently. Onwards towards Euro 2020 for Denmark.
Notable stat: Croatia and Denmark set a new FIFA World Cup record for the fastest 1-1 scoreline.
Remaining Round of 16 Matches (All Times CT):
Monday, July 2
9 a.m. - Mexico vs. Brazil (FOX, Telemundo)
1 p.m. - Belgium vs. Japan (FOX, Telemundo)
Tuesday, July 3
9 a.m. - Sweden vs. Switzerland (FS1, Telemundo)
1 p.m. - Colombia vs. England (FOX, Telemundo)