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Dublin: 16 °C Tuesday 18 September, 2018
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Liveblog

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Hello, and welcome to today’s liveblog.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the game. E-mail paul@the42.ie, tweet @the42_ie, post a message to our Facebook wall, or leave a comment below.

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Kick off for the game is at 7pm.

So will it be Croatia or Russia to join fellow European teams England, Belgium and France in the World Cup semi-finals?

Hosts Russia have already exceeded expectations getting to this stage, having been written off pre-tournament by sections of their media.

They may have emerged from a relatively easy group following victories over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but their last-16 defeat of 2010 champions Spain was undeniably impressive.

What they lack in talent, the Russians more than compensate for in commitment and work ethic, while in rumoured Chelsea target Aleksandr Golovin, they have one of the most promising young midfielders in Europe.

Croatia, meanwhile, have also had an excellent tournament, with their 3-0 group-stage win over Argentina especially impressive.

In Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitić, they have arguably the best midfield of the teams left in the competition.

A laboured penalty-kicks win over an ordinary enough Denmark team in the second round suggested they were flagging a little, nonetheless given the talent at their disposal, many critics will fancy Croatia to emulate the class of ’98 and reach the World Cup semi-finals.

Some details on the starting XIs via AFP…

Denis Cheryshev is back in the Russia starting line-up for the hosts’ meeting with Croatia in their World Cup quarter-final in Sochi on Saturday.

The Villarreal winger replaces Yuri Zhirkov, who has been struggling with a calf injury, in the only change made by coach Stanislav Cherchesov following the penalty shootout win over Spain in the last 16.

Cheryshev scored twice in Russia’s 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia in the tournament’s opening game, and was also on target as they defeated Egypt 3-1 in their second group outing.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic also makes one change to his team following the win on penalties against Denmark in the round of 16.

Andrej Kramaric, the Hoffenheim forward, comes in with Inter Milan midfielder Marcelo Brozovic dropping out.

The winners of the last quarter-final will go through to a semi-final in Moscow on Wednesday against England, who beat Sweden 2-0 earlier.

Croatia are aiming to make the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1998, while the Russians are aiming to reach the last four of a major tournament for the first time since Euro 2008.

Starting line-ups for the World Cup quarter-final between Russia and Croatia in Sochi on Saturday:

Russia

Igor Akinfeev (capt); Mario Fernandes, Ilya Kutepov, Sergei Ignashevich, Fedor Kudriashov; Denis Cheryshev, Daler Kuziaev, Roman Zobnin, Alexander Samedov; Aleksandr Golovin; Artem Dzyuba

Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov (RUS)

Croatia

Danijel Subasic; Sime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic; Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric (capt); Ante Rebic, Andrej Kramaric, Ivan Perisic; Mario Mandzukic.

Coach: Zlatko Dalic (CRO)

Referee: Sandro Ricci (BRA)

1Mins

We’re under way…

Russia have started this game really well.

Golovin’s ball into the box is only half cleared, before Dzyuba’s attempt from the edge of the area is deflected out for a corner.

7Mins

It’s now Croatia’s turn to attack.

Rebić evades the challenge of Kudryashov, before his powerful cross is parried out for a corner by Akinfeev.

It’s been a very lively start to this game.

12Mins

The atmosphere is absolutely electric.

Every time Russia launch an attack, there is an audible surge of excitement around the stadium.

As I type, a cross finds Mandžukić, but he doesn’t get a proper connection with the ball and consequently blazes it well over the bar.

14Mins

Russia look very threatening on the counter-attack at the moment.

Samedov finds himself in a promising position, but his cross is poor enough, and Perišić is well positioned to head clear.

25Mins

After a fast-paced opening, this game has settled down a bit.

According to the BBC, Croatia have had 65% of the possession, while neither team has registered a shot on target so far.

29Mins

Perišić has to stoop down to nod on a cross, and his attempt goes narrowly wide.

Both sides have had to be content with half chances so far.

36Mins

What a goal!

Cheryshev plays a one-two with Dzyuba in midfield before hammering an unstoppable shot into the top corner from about 30 yards out.

It’s his fourth goal of the tournament, and it puts Russia in dreamland.

“He played as a banger in a match for Real Madrid, and he certainly banged that one into the net,” says RTÉ’s Brian Kerr, again showing why he is the best co-commentator in the business.

42Mins

Croatia are right back in this game!

Mandžukić is left completely unmarked and in acres of space down Russia’s right-hand side.

The striker’s cross finds Kramarić, who nods home from close range.

Russia’s lead lasted less than 10 minutes.

43Mins

45Mins

1-1 is probably a fair half-time score on the balance of play.

Croatia are the technically superior team and controlled the play at times, but Russia have been their usual lively selves and look very dangerous on the counter-attack.

In addition, Denis Cheryshev might not be at Villarreal for much longer, as he has continued to impress, scoring one of the goals of the tournament (his fourth in total) to put Russia ahead, before the hosts were pegged back thanks to Kramaric’s clinical finish, after good work out wide by Mandžukić.

47Mins

49Mins

Croatia have started this half the stronger of the two teams.

Modric, who is looking as sharp as ever, has just flashed a shot wide from the edge of the area.

53Mins

Vrsaljko’s cross is half cleared by Ignashevich, before Kramarić fails to trouble Akinfeev with an audacious overhead kick.

Croatia are looking increasingly dominant, controlling the play, with Russia appearing to tire.

57Mins

Russia boss Stanislav Cherchesov appears to sense his side are losing control of this game and look increasingly vulnerable.

A change is consequently made, with Erokhin on in place of Samedov.

62Mins

So close!

Kramarić’s cross is only half headed away. The ball falls to Perišić, whose shot from the edge of the box hits the post before being cleared by a relieved Russia.

The hosts are giving the ball away too cheaply at the moment and simply inviting more pressure on their goal.

65Mins

Modric has been increasingly influential as Croatia gain greater control of midfield.

It feels as if all that running, which Russia have become renowned for at this tournament, is finally catching up with them, as many of their players look exhausted.

67Mins

Russia make another change.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, it’s the goalscorer Cheryshev making way.

Smolov, who had been expected to feature prominently prior to the tournament, enters the action.

73Mins

A rare Russia chance. Fernandes’ cross is headed just over Erokhin.

It would be a real smash-and-grab victory if the hosts do manage to win this game.

74Mins

Croatia make a change.

Strinić goes off with Pivarić slotting in at left-back.

78Mins

More heroic last-ditch defending by Russia.

Croatia counter-attack and shots by Vrsaljko and Modric are both blocked.

This clash is not a million miles away from the Spain last-16 game now. Russia’s brilliant defence and work-rate is compensating hugely for flaws elsewhere in the team.

80Mins

Russia make a third change.

Dzyuba, who has produced another tireless performance up front, is replaced by Gazinskiy.

85Mins

Russia Soccer WCup Russia Croatia Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, right, makes a save in front of Croatia's Mario Mandzukic. Source: Rebecca Blackwell

90Mins

Subašić looks in serious pain after kneeling down to collect the ball.

Croatia have made their three subs, so they won’t be able to take him off at the moment and will need to wait until extra time to make the substitution.

90Mins

There will be five minutes of stoppage time…

91Mins

Modric continues to look energetic.

His cross at the edge of the box is cut out.

The Real Madrid star has been imperious, particularly in the second half.

90Mins

Smolov takes a shot out wide that Subašić has to parry.

It looks like we’re set for extra-time.

90Mins

So we’re going to play another 30 minutes.

Russia have shown incredible heart in this game.

Stanislav Cherchesov’s men have looked second best, particularly in the second half, but as with Spain before them, Croatia — for all their increasing dominance — just can’t find a way past their stubborn backline.

The Croats are the better team and so probably deserve to prevail, but Russia’s remarkable resilience could yet get them over the line.

90Mins

The first half of extra-time is under way…

92Mins

92Mins

96Mins

(SP)RUSSIA-SOCHI-2018 WORLD CUP-QUARTERFINAL-RUSSIA VS CROATIA Sergey Ignashevich (L) of Russia competes for a header with Mario Mandzukic (C). Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

98Mins

Croatia make a change.

Vrsaljko pulls up with an injury and is unable to continue.

He is replaced by 32-year-old former Man City and Tottenham right-back Vedran Ćorluka, who plies his trade at Lokomotiv Moscow these days and earns his 102nd cap for his country.

103Mins

Out of nothing, Croatia are ahead.

Vida’s header from a corner sneaks through a few bodies and finds the corner of the net.

Russia are really up against it now, and they respond immediately by replacing Golovin with Dzagoev.

106Mins

Russia are playing in a much more attacking manner now.

Erokhin nods a header from a corner wide, as the hosts search desperately for an equaliser.

107Mins

Even Modric is looking a little tired now.

He has just uncharacteristically given the ball away.

110Mins

Gazinskiy gets booked for cynically tripping Mandžukić and stopping Croatia from launching a promising-looking counter-attack in the process.

He will miss the semi-final with England through suspension if Russia get there.

112Mins

Less than 10 minutes remain for Russia to find an equaliser.

The tension in the stadium is palpable.

As I type, the ball falls to Kuzyaev on the edge of the area, and Subašić does well to hold onto his powerful shot.

114Mins

Subašić has to parry away a cross by Smolov.

Russia have found energy from somewhere and have Croatia under serious pressure now.

115Mins

Dzagoev swings in a free kick and Fernandes heads home to send the majoriy of fans in the stadium into ecstasy.

You get the feeling Russia will fancy their chances if the game goes to penalties, having received the psychological boost of a late comeback.

119Mins

Here’s a look at what could prove to be a very famous moment in the history of Russian football…

119Mins

119Mins

There will be one minute of stoppage time…

120Mins

So penalties it is!

One of these sides will be in the World Cup semi-finals without having won a knockout game in normal or extra time.

Croatia have been the better side and would probably be most neutrals’ choice for a semi spot, given their attractive style of play, but it’s hard not to admire Russia’s courage and heart in getting back into this game when they looked dead and buried.

120Mins

(SP)RUSSIA-SOCHI-2018 WORLD CUP-QUARTERFINAL-RUSSIA VS CROATIA Domagoj Vida (R front) of Croatia celebrates scoring. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

120Mins

Smolov’s first penalty is saved!

120Mins

Brozovic puts the ball in the top corner to put Croatia in the lead. 1-0.

120Mins

1-1. Dzagoev semds the goalkeeper the wrong way.

120Mins

Penalty saved! Kovacic’s effort is stopped by Akinfeev.

120Mins

Fernandes puts a poor penalty wide! Still 1-1.

120Mins

Modric scores to put Croatia 2-1 up!

120Mins

Ignashevich makes it 2-2!

120Mins

Vida puts Croatia 3-2 ahead!

120Mins

Kuzyaev makes it 3-3.

120Mins

Rakitić scores! Croatia are in the semi-finals.

120Mins

So that’s that.

Croatia are in the semi-finals following another win on penalties.

They were the better side, playing the more attractive football and thus deservedly go through.

Russia exit the competition, but can hold their heads high. Having been dismissed by many critics prior to the competition, they have fought incredibly bravely this evening and shown unbelievable work-rate and resilience over the course of the competition.

Right, that’s all from me.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

You can read our match report here and we’ll have more reaction to follow.

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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