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Croatia prevail on penalties to book World Cup quarter-final spot as Danes exit

Croatia booked their place in the final eight on Sunday after beating Denmark in Nizhny Novgorod.

CROATIA HAVE BEATEN Denmark in a dramatic penalty shootout on Sunday to progress to the World Cup quarter-finals.

On a night of late, late drama Ivan Rakitic stroked home the decisive spotkick to ensure the Croats advanced to a last eight meeting with Russia after the two sides finished locked at 1-1 following extra-time.

Russia Soccer WCup Croatia Denmark Source: Martin Meissner

The Barcelona midfielder’s winner came after Milan Badelj and Josip Pivaric saw their penalties saved by Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who also saved an extra time penalty from Luka Modric.

Russia Soccer WCup Croatia Denmark Source: Martin Meissner

But Danes Christian Eriksen, Lasse Schone and Nicolai Jorgensen were thwarted by  Danijel Subasic in the shootout to ensure Croatia won 3-2 and advanced to their first quarter-finals since the 1998 World Cup in France.

The dramatic ending followed early excitement — but little in between.

In an astonishing start to the match, both teams scored within four minutes via their first attacks.

First, Mathias Jorgensen turned home in the second minute after Croatia failed to clear a long throw-in from Jonas Knudsen, the defender’s shot creeping under Subasic to give Denmark the perfect start.

But any hopes they could hold onto their lead vanished within 90 seconds.

With the Nizhny Novgorod stadium still rocking from the frantic start, Croatia went upfield and promptly equalised.

Again, the goal owed more than a little to bad defending when a Sime Vrsaljko cross was hammered by Henrik Dalsgaard into fellow Dane Andreas Christensen and the ball fell obligingly in the penalty area to Mario Mandzukic who scored.

The explosive start — both sides hit the back of the net within three minutes and thirty seven seconds — was officially the quickest two teams have ever scored in a World Cup finals match.

Croatia v Denmark: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Luka Modric celebrates after his side's win on penalties. Source: Patrick Smith - FIFA

The following 116 minutes though largely failed to live up to the first four, fireworks giving way to a damp squib of an encounter as the game edged inexorably towards extra time and penalties.

Billed as a clash between the opposing number 10s, Modric and Eriksen, it instead became increasingly attritional and tactical, with both playmakers unable to find any space.

Instead the player who created most chances was Knudsen with his long throws.

(SP)RUSSIA-NIZHNY NOVGOROD-2018 WORLD CUP-ROUND OF 16-CROATIA VS DENMARK Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Few clear chances were created by either side until Modric’s late penalty miss.

That came after Ante Rebic was fouled in the 116th minute Mathias Jorgensen, with the goal at his mercy.

Modric stepped up but side-footed weakly and Schmeichel made the first of his three penalty saves on the night, all in vain, as his legendary goalkeeping father Peter punched the air in delight as he watched on in the stands.

© – AFP 2018

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