Igor Akinfeev the hero as Russian Federation dump Spain out after penalty shootout

Arnold Nichols
July 2, 2018

During Russia's penalty-kick shootout win over Spain on Sunday at the World Cup, Igor Akinfeev clinched the victory by stopping a shot with his foot.

Russian Federation midfielder Alan Dzagoev, who injured his hamstring in his country's 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia in their first World Cup match, will be fit to play against Spain on Sunday, TASS news agency cited his father as saying.

The World Cup's lowest-ranked team now advances to a quarterfinal against Croatia or Denmark in Sochi on Sunday.

Akinfeev came to the rescue again to deny Rodrigo after his fine sprint in the second half of extra time before becoming a national hero by saving the two spot kicks to send the hosts past the former world champions.

Spain led in the 12th minute, when captain Sergio Ramos helped force Russia's Sergei Ignashevich into an own goal, when his back was turned to the play. The king is a soccer fan who, as crown prince, attended the 2010 World Cup final in Johannesburg to see Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0. Iniesta also scored the first spot-kick of the shootout.

"We were hoping for penalties", Akinfeev said.

Spain joined fellow heavyweights Germany and Argentina in making a premature exit, raising questions as to the wisdom of sacking Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the competition.

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Russian Federation were clearly happy to play for penalties at this point, but it was still notable how hard Spain found it to create good chances. "We didn't play quite the way we wanted but it's hard when you don't have the ball and you spend that much time defending".

The excitement of the first half dissipated soon after the restart as the game fell into a rather boring rhythm of Spain dominating possession without truly threatening. After Denis Cheryshev converted his spot kick, Akinfeev stopped Iago Aspas's effort with his legs to spark mass celebrations in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Still, World Cup history was on Russia's side after its well-organized team survived two hours of barely having the ball.

Fox said it was the third-biggest World Cup upset based on its rankings and the biggest in the knockout round.

Russian Federation endured a tense wait when Kuipers was in communication with the video assistant referee following a late tug on Pique in the box, before Akinfeev's shootout heroics clinched an unforgettable triumph.

Indeed, while the playmaker may be past his prime, in a mixed tournament for Spain he had been one of their stronger performers during the group stage.

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