Spain 1-1 Russian Federation

Spain 1-1 Russian Federation

It was the first match of the tournament to go to penalty kicks.

Croatia now have a golden chance to match their previous golden generation's run to the semi-finals in 1998 when they meet Russian Federation in Sochi on Saturday.

But the Spaniards just seem to revert to their pre-2008 frustrating selves - full of ability but no end product as they kept up a freaky record of nine losses to World Cup and European Championship hosts since 1934.

With Russia withdrawing Dzyuba, the hosts played the last half hour of normal time without anyone left upfield as an outlet, with all 10 outfield players content to sit even deeper as Spain continued their possession domination.

Akinfeev used his trailing left foot to kick the ball high away from the goal on Spain's last attempt. It was the fifth time in a row a World Cup host nation has won a penalty shootout, Federation Internationale de Football Association said. Turmoil erupted two days before the opening game, when the federation fired the head coach. Lopetegui was axed by the Spanish federation with the team already in Russia after agreeing a deal to become the Real Madrid coach next season. The 34-year-old Barcelona midfielder came off the bench and nearly won the game with an 85th-minute shot well saved by Akinfeev.

Spain dominated the ball during the game - completing more than 1,000 passes - but rarely threatened a well-organized Russian defense.


Five minutes after that, Spain's players were baying for VAR after more grappling in the box.

And it was those two who almost won it for Spain with five minutes to go, when first Iniesta and then Aspas fired shots at Akinfeev's goal - only for the skipper to parry both away.

Instead, they passed and passed - 1,137 in all - but scored only when Sergey Ignashevich diverted Marco Asensio's free kick into his own goal in the 11th minute. He also ensured the game needed 30 extra minutes with back-to-back diving saves in the 85th to deny substitutes Iniesta and Aspas. The 38-year-old was marking Sergio Ramos tightly on a free-kick, turned his back to the incoming cross and the ball redirected off his boot and into his own net.

An error in Spain's defense let Russian Federation level in the 41st, after Gerard Pique's raised arm blocked a header by Artyom Dzyuba at a corner.

Here, AFP Sports looks at three things we learned today at the World Cup. In a match where Spain enjoyed 79 per cent of possession, not even the positive impact of another stand-out performance from Isco could break down the Russian Federation defence to give Spain the easy win many had predicted. That defied expectations for the home team, and Russia's path to the final also includes a potential semifinal here.

Eight years ago Iniesta scored the goal that gave Spain their first ever World Cup in South Africa.

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