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Dublin: 8 °C Saturday 17 November, 2018


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Hello! And welcome to our live coverage of this afternoon’s World Cup last-16 clash between Spain and Russia.

The odds are stacked firmly in the 2010 winners’ favour, and indeed with both of the last World Cup finalists Germany and Argentina eliminated, La Roja are among the firm favourites to go all the way again in 2018.

They face an interesting test today, coming up against the hosts. Pre-competition predictions said this was one of the worst Russia teams in the nation’s footballing history, and that they would struggle to even get out of their group.

Stanislav Cherchesov’s men shocked everyone with an impressive 5-0 victory win over Saudi Arabia on the opening day.

After that, they put Mohamed Salah and Egypt to the sword 3-1, ensuring their passage to the knockout stages, before being humbled 3-0 by Uruguay.

As they say, if you want to be the best you have to beat the best. That will be the test for Russia today against Andres Iniesta & Co.

Kick-off is just under an hour away at 3pm.

Let’s get started with the team news…

So, today’s teams are:

Russia: Akinfeev; Fernandes, Kutepov, Iganshevich, Kudriashov, Zhirkov; Kuziaev, Zobnin, Samedov, Golovin; Dzyuba.

Subs: Semenov, Cheryshev, Gazinskii, Dzagoev, Smolov, Lunev, Granat, Al Miranchuk, An Miranchuk, Gabulov, Erokhin

Spain: De Gea; Nacho, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Koke, Busquets; Silva, Isco, Asensio; Costa.

Subs: Kepa, Reina, Carvajal, Iniesta, Alcantara, Odriozola, Azpilicueta, Niguez, Vazquez, Machado, Aspas

Just 40 minutes to go before kick-off, but who do we see coming out on top in Luzhniki this afternoon? Let us know below!

Poll Results:

The general consensus points towards a Spain win today, and perhaps even a landslide win if Fernando Hierro’s men are in the mood. Could this end 4-0, or 5-0?

This World Cup has been intriguing because none of the big hitters have looked completely unbeatable. France, Brazil, Belgium and Spain have all shown weaknesses throughout the competition so far.

In fact the most complete sides have been Uruguay and Croatia — who could have seen that coming?

But again, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This stage of the tournament separates the haves from the have nots.

Today’s game still has a sense of competition about it, thankfully. Before the World Cup began, you would have anticipated a Spain-Russia knockout clash ending in a cricket score.

That could still happen, but with Russia showing signs of life in their impressive wins against Saudi Arabia and Egypt during the group stage, the hosts could mount a test today against a Spain side which struggled to put Iran away.

Both sides are out on the pitch and the national anthems are done and dusted. Kick-off is just a few moments away!

Will Spain miss Andres Iniesta this afternoon?


Aleksandr Golovin brings a raucous roar from the home supporters as he bombs forward down the right wing, taking advantage of an ocean of space. He causes all sorts of problems but is ushered out of play by the commanding presence of Gerard Pique. A decent start for the hosts, even though Spain are predictably dominating possession.



Spain are happy to persist with their passing game, but Russia are poising sporadic threats on the counter-attack as Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos sit very, very high.

It’s been a nervy enough opening 10 minutes for Fernando Hierro’s side here.


Spain race into the lead and it’s a disaster for Russia as they completely fail from a set-piece. A free-kick swung into the penalty area takes a deflection off both Sergei Ignashevich and Sergio Ramos. The pair were tangled up together and, even though the Spain captain reeled away in celebration, the goal has been awarded as an own goal by the Russia defender. 1-0 Spain!


Nobody was quite sure who that goal should be given to, but Spain supporters won’t care a bit. Ignashevich hauled Ramos to the floor, with the ball bouncing off the defender before flying into the back of the net.

It was utterly bizarre defending from Ignashevich — who wasn’t even looking at the ball as it was crossed into the box. He was focussed entirely on marking Ramos and, even if the ball didn’t end up in the back of the net, it was a certain penalty.

A perfect start for Spain, and it could only get worse for the hosts here as they have a mountain to climb.


Russia trying to formulate some kind of attacks but even getting the ball is proving troublesome. Even in the absence of Andres Iniesta in the middle of the park, Spain are linking up superbly between Koke, Isco and Sergio Busquets. Liquid football at times.


Some tenacious work from Roman Zobnin down the right flank reaps the rewards of a corner kick. It’s played short, and before you know it Spain regard possession with intense pressing.

Relentless intensity, and you really do feel Russia need to be making the most of these set-pieces if they stand any chance over the remaining hour. They have a significant height advantage, but aren’t making the most of it so far.



Spain have not even had a shot in this game so far, despite being 1-0 ahead. Madness.


Chance! Russia very nearly draw level-pegging with their best chance of the game so far. Aleksandr Golovin prods and probes on the edge of the box before curling a brilliant effort goal-bound. His effort looked to have David de Gea beaten, but it flies just inches wide of the bottom corner. So close.


The referee points to the spot and Russia have been given a lifeline here! Gerard Pique is penalised as the arm smacks his left arm inside the box. The drama.


Russia are level! Artem Dzyuba sends David de Gea the wrong way and sticks the ball into the bottom right corner. It’s 1-1, can you actually believe it.


There will be two minutes of stoppage time to come at the end of the first half.


Chance! Diego Costa almost puts Spain back ahead right at the end of the half. The Atletico forward peels away from his marker but his effort is saved brilliantly by Igor Akinfeev, who remained concentrated and composed on his line.


Spain really need to up the ante after the break. They took an early lead after just 11 minutes but failed to record a single shot on target until Russia’s equaliser via Dzyuba’s penalty. Can Russia do the unthinkable and dump the 2010 winners out?


It was a clear handball, but Gerard Pique certainly wasn’t impressed at the penalty decision the first half.

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH51-ESP-RUS Source: AFP/Getty Images




Ilya Kutepov is shown a yellow card for a rash challenge on Isco. Spain have started much the brighter in the second half and are hungry to stop any hint of an upset dead in its tracks here.


Deployed as a wing back in this intriguing 3-4-2-1 formation, Mario Fernandes is getting a lot of success down the right wing for Russia. He saw a lot of the ball in the first half and is doing really well bombing forward and getting crosses into the box. Jordi Alba seems to be struggling to keep tabs on the CSKA Moscow man in the second half so far.


Another switch for Russia as Denis Cheryshev replaces Aleksandr Samedov. The 27-year-old winger has three goals in the World Cup so far and has been mightily impressive.


A third and final substitution by Stanislav Cherchesov. Fedor Smolov comes in to replace goalscorer Artem Dzyuba. Russia are bloody going for this, aren’t they?


Russia really pressing high here and there’s a loose shout for a penalty. Aleksandr Golovin breezes past a host of challenges before ending up on the deck. He claimed Sergio Ramos shoved him, but the referee rightly waves play on. That said, it represents another promising attack for Russia, who again are getting a lot of success down the right wing. They’re going for it.


Spain continue to knock on the door but are getting absolutely no-where at the minute. They seem to be losing self-belief as Russia close ranks, soak up pressure and accept the fact they will be consigned to rare breaks on the counter. A real Germany vs South Korea feeling to this game — could it all blow up in Spain’s face with 15 minutes to go?


A final swap from Fernando Hierro as Iago Aspas replaces Diego Costa with 10 minutes to go. The ex-Liverpool man scored an impressive 22 goals in La Liga last season for Celta Vigo.



Chance! Andres Iniesta very nearly snags a winner with six minutes to go. A neat passage of passing play puts the ball on a plate for the Barcelona star. He smacks the ball with an excellent connection, but Igor Akinfeev is equal to it to push the ball onto the post and away from danger. It so very nearly crept into the bottom corner.


Corner after corner, cross after cross — but Spain can’t find a way through here. Stoppage time is imminent and we look all but set for extra-time. Can either side grab a late, great winner?


There will be four minutes of stoppage time to come.



Chance! Spain are a right mess at the back and sloppily give possession away. Fedor Smolov takes possession just inside the box, but his curled strike just misses the target. The tension is palpable.


Neither side could manage to nick a goal in the dying stages and we’re set for extra-time to try and pick a winner. Who could have predicted such a tight affair? Spain have really underperformed, with Russia providing an excellent defensive performance to nullify their opponents.

More action to come shortly…



It seems like we’ve picked up where we left off for the last half an hour of the second period. Spain are dominating possession and patiently waiting to spot holes in the Russia defence before venturing to attack. Finely balanced.



Koke lines up a shot from all of 40 yards but absolutely belts it over the crossbar. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I suppose.


Another shot! This time Iago Aspas lays possession off to Real Madrid’s young star Marco Asensio. He lets fly with an almighty effort from distance, but it’s straight at Akinfeev who saves comfortably.


Aspas causing all sorts of problems now. He races onto an Iniesta ball over the top and releases a left-footed strike. However Ignashevich keeps tabs on the striker and blocks his effort down heroically. Richard Dunne-esque that was.


Another switch for Spain as they make use of Fifa’s new ruling allowing a fourth substitution in extra-time. Valencia’s Rodrigo comes on for Marco Asensio.


Spain really looking aimless at the moment as Koke curls a cross right into the arms of Akinfeev. A real lack of motivation and direction about La Roja, despite absolutely dominating possession


Chance! Finally, we have a shot! Rodrigo sets Spain up for a brilliant attack, allowing the ball to run through his legs before exchanging a one-two. The Valencia striker bears down on goal but can only see Akinfeev produce a stunning low save to keep it at 1-1.


Spain are really throwing the kitchen sink at Russia now as they up their intensity, throwing everything and everyone up front to find a winner. Russia are playing for penalties, hanging on for dear life with eight minutes to go. This is so exciting!


There are serious calls for a penalty as Sergio Ramos claims he was held onto inside the box by Ignashevich. The referee holds play up to consult with officials, but he waves play on.


There’s just two minutes remaining as the noise reaches deafening levels inside the Luzhniki Stadium. Spain throwing everything forward to try and nick it. The tension…


There will be just one minute of stoppage time to come at the end of extra-time.


It’s all square at the end of extra-time and we’re heading for a penalty shoot-out! This World Cup is the gift that keeps on giving.


Penalties: Spain 1-0 Russia

GOAL! Iniesta scores for Spain.


Penalties: Spain 1-1 Russia

GOAL! Smolov scores for Russia.


Penalties: Spain 2-1 Russia

GOAL! Pique scores for Spain.


Penalties: Spain 2-2 Russia

GOAL! Ignashevich scores for Russia.


Penalties: Spain 2-2 Russia

SAVE! Koke misses for Spain and it’s advantage Russia.


Penalties: Spain 2-3 Russia

GOAL! Golovin scores for Russia.


Penalties: Spain 3-3 Russia

GOAL! Ramos scores for Spain.


Penalties: Spain 3-4 Russia

GOAL! Cheryshev scores for Russia.

Penalties: Spain 3-4 Russia

SAVE! Aspas has his penalty saved by Akinfeev and Russia are though!

About the author:

Aaron Gallagher


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