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Croatia into WC semis, edging out Russia on penalties | Coastweek
SOCHI Russia (Xinhua) -- Croatian players [left] celebrate victory after the 2018 FIFA World Cup quarter-final match between Russia and Croatia. Croatia won 6-5 (4-3 in penalty shootout) and advanced to the semi-finals. XINHUA PHOTO - CAO CAN

Croatia roar into World Cup semis,
edge out hosts Russia on penalties

SOCHI Russia (Xinhua) -- Croatia triumphed on penalties, edging out hosts Russia in a breathtaking shootout here on Saturday in the World Cup quarterfinal duel, and will meet England in the semifinals in Moscow on July 11.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said after the game, “The Russia team fought well. This was not a beautiful game, it was a fight, a battle for the semifinal. We were lucky.”

After a 2-2 tie after the extra time, Croatia beat Russia 4-3 in the penalty shootout, entering the World Cup last four for the first time in 20 years and breaking the jinx that they had no win over World Cup hosts after they lost to France in the semifinal in 1998 and Brazil in the opener in 2014.

Croatia, who beat Denmark on penalties in the round of 16, are only the second team in World Cup history - after Argentina in 1990 - to win two penalty shootouts in the same edition of the tournament.

Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov said, “We trusted ourselves. We could only prove our worth by working hard. I believe that people did not only start trusting us but they are in love with us.”

In the penalty shootout, Croatian substitute midfielder Marcelo Brozovic, playmaker and captain Luka Modric, defender Domagoj Vida and midfielder Ivan Rakitic all scored despite Mateo Kovacic’s failure.

Russian forward Fedor Smolov, who came into the field as a substitute in the second half, came out first to the spot kick but saw his shot saved by the keeper. Defender Mario Fernandes, who equalized for Russia in the 115th minute with a close-range header, also missed the target.

Modric, the Man of the match, said, “Another drama for us. We didn’t play well in the first half, we didn’t control the game as we wanted.”

In the regular time, Russia broke the ice first in the 31st minute when Villarreal midfielder Denis Cheryshev completed a neat one-two with forward Artem Dzyuba at the edge of the box, opened up space with a touch and swerved a stunning strike into the top left corner.

It was Cheryshev’s fourth goal in his five matches of this World Cup. Only Harry Kane (6) has more in the tournament.

Eight minutes later, Croatian midfielder Andrej Kramaric headed in the equalizer on forward Mario Mandzukic’s clinical cross from the left side of the Russian box.

Kramaric became the seventh different player to score for Croatia at this World Cup - only Belgium have more names on the scoresheet (9).

Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov went back to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Fedor Kudryashov replacing the injured Yuri Zhirkov as a left-back. It could be either defensive or attacking, depending on the pressure applied by Croatia.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic also fielded 4-2-3-1, trying to dominate the midfield with Modric’s ability.

Instead of focusing on defense, Russia launched waves of attacks at the beginning. The first attack by Russia came quickly when Dzyuba received the ball from playmaker Aleksandr Golovin and found Cheryshev in the area.

After Russia’s blistering start, Modric-led Croatia gradually controlled the ball and the first half saw 65 percent ball possession for Croatia.

A stunning shot emerged in the 62nd minute when Croatian midfielder Ivan Perisic’s effort from right to left hit the base of the post.

Smolov came off the bench to replace Cheryshev in the 67th minute to keep pressure in the front with Dzyuba, and the Russian formation was shifted to 4-4-2.

After a 1-1 draw after the regular time, Vida headed in a dramatic corner in the 101st minute but he was booked a yellow card for taking off his jersey for celebration.

Fourteen minutes later, Dzagoev curled in a brilliant free-kick from the right edge of the area and the unmarked Fernandes deftly headed the ball into the bottom corner to drag his team back from the cliff edge.

Croatia will next take on England, who tamed Sweden 2-0 in the third quarterfinal match hours before.

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Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic: We were lucky in fight for semifinal

SOCHI Russia (Xinhua) -- Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic termed the quarterfinal as a fight or battle instead of a game after his team edged out hosts Russia on penalties here on Saturday.

“The Russia team fought well. This was not a beautiful game, it was a fight, a battle for the semifinal. We were lucky,” Dalic told the post-match press conference.

The duel ended 1-1 after regular time and 2-2 after extra time before Croatia won the penalty shootout 4-3.

“I was concentrated throughout the match but after Rakitic’s penalty, it came bursting out of me. I felt really relieved,” Dalic said.

“We made ourselves happy but we also made everybody back home in Croatia happy. Those emotions just burst out of me. I don’t cry often but now I have a good cause: Croatia are in the semifinals. This is a great success and a great result,” he added.

Croatia will take on England in the semifinal in Moscow on July 11.

“Of course there is some power left for the English. We do not want to stop, we will try to play our best game. We have two matches to play and we are very motivated. We’re giving our all. It will be a battle again,” he said.

Croatia’s last appearance in the semifinals was in the 1998 World Cup in France.

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By Paul Giblin SAMARA Russia (Xinhua) -- Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic says one of the reasons for his excellent form this season and in the 2018 World Cup is down to a major change in his diet after discovering he is allergic to gluten.

Rakitic has been one of the keys to his country’s impressive World Cup to date and the FC Barcelona player will be in the side when they face hosts Russia in Sochi later on Saturday night.

The 30-year-old is in Russia after helping Barcelona to a domestic double in one of his best seasons as a player and speaking in an interview with the Spanish ‘El Pais’ newspaper, he explained the reason for his season was partly down to a major change in lifestyle.

“I used to feel uncomfortable and bloated after matches and I found it hard to recover,” explained Rakitic.

“I was fortunate, I had an analysis and it turned out I am allergic to gluten, I have now changed a lot of things and I feel very comfortable and I felt a lot better all season.”

“I completely changed the way I eat, now I only drink water at home, no Coca-Cola and I have started to work with people who have helped me a lot,” continued the midfielder, who is feeling the benefits.

“I have felt much better ever since I made the change. I recover much easier and quicker after games and my intestines don’t give me any problems. To begin with I didn’t think it was that important, but when I made changes I realized I had done the right thing,” he concluded.

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Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov: prove worth by working hard 

SOCHI Russia (Xinhua) -- Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov spoke highly of his team despite the penalty shootout loss to Croatia in the World Cup quarterfinals here on Saturday.

“We trusted ourselves. We could only prove our worth by working hard,” Cherchesov said at the post-match press conference.

“I believe that people did not only start trusting us but they are in love with us. The entire country of Russia is in love with us,” he added.

Hosts Russia made history as they advanced to the top eight for the first time.

“People know what the Russian national team is worth. We hope we have turned the situation for the better,” the coach noted.

In this World Cup, Russia crushed Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opener, beat Egypt 3-1, before losing 3-0 to Uruguay to finish second in Group A. They upset Spain on penalties in the round of 16. 

             

 

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