Host nation Russia stunned 2010 winners Spain in a penalty shootout to reach the World Cup quarter-finals on Sunday, holding their nerve in scenes of high drama in Moscow.
Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was the hero, saving spot-kicks from Koke and Iago Aspas as Russia won 4-3, sparking emotional scenes as the rain poured down at the Luzhniki stadium.
Fernando Hierro’s Spain totally dominated the match, hogging 74 percent of possession, but created few clear-cut chances and head home after a disjointed campaign that never took off.
Russia are the lowest-ranked nation in the tournament — a lowly 70th in the world — and were not expected to progress beyond the first round but they now find themselves in the last eight, where they will play either Croatia or Denmark.
“We were hoping for penalties,” Akinfeev said after the match ended 1-1 following extra time. “We are having a fantastic World Cup.
Not just our fans, but the fans of other countries are getting a sense of this atmosphere and understood that Russians really know how to play football and want to play football.”
Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov said: “We spent two years working on this and we did a good job.”
Russia came into the tournament derided by their own supporters after a string of defeats in warm-up matches but they thrashed Saudi Arabia 5-0 in their opener and then swept aside Egypt 3-1, making even their own sceptical public believe.
The result is a disaster for Spain, whose preparations for the tournament were wrecked when their manager Julen Lopetegui was sacked on the eve of the tournament.
They shipped five goals in their three group matches and there were major questions over the form of goalkeeper David de Gea coming into the knockout phase.