Russia rock the World Cup as hosts knock out Spain on penalties

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Russia captain Igor Akinfeev was the hero as the hosts stunned Spain 4-3 on penalties after they played out a 1-1 draw at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.

Akinfeev had already made good saves as Russia held on to force extra-time and spot-kicks – but he then saved from Koke and Iago Aspas in the shoot-out.

It was a remarkable finale to a game Spain dominated in terms of possession but simply did not do enough to win and Russia can now look forward to a quarter-final next Saturday in Sochi against Croatia or Denmark.

Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov dropped Spanish-based winger Denis Cheryshev and went with five at the back. The limitations of this became obvious when Aleksandr Golovin scampered down the wing in the fourth minute but had nobody to cross to – he held on and settled for a corner.

Spain, meanwhile, passed and passed and passed. And then in the 11th minute, right-back Nacho was fouled just outside the Russian box, giving Marco Asensio no excuse whatsoever but to deliver a ball into the box.

The Real Madrid star did so and it was a fine delivery, but not as good as Sergey Ignashevich made it look. A fortnight short of his 39th birthday, the CSKA stopper is old enough to know you need to watch the ball. Sadly, he had eyes only for Sergio Ramos, who he successfully wrestled to the floor only for the ball to cannon off his heel for a comical own goal.

The 2010 world champions continued to pass amongst themselves, creating little. In contrast, the Russians were roused.

On 41 minutes, Ramos scuffed a clearance to give Russia their third corner. It was delivered to Artem Dzyuba, who met it firmly with his head only forGerard Pique to bat it down, volleyball style. The crowd roared, Pique howled, the referee pointed to the spot and the VAR whispered his approval.
Dzyuba then smashed the ball home for the game’s first shot on target and his third goal of the tournament.

Spain finished the half with a burst of activity, registering a couple of efforts, but the next 40 minutes were turgid, a state of affairs not helped by the 25-degree temperature.

Cherchesov tried to freshen things up by bringing on Denis Cheryshev and swapping the tiring Dzyuba for Fedor Smolov, while Spain coach Fernando Hierro called for Anders Iniesta and Aspas.

And it was those two who nearly 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.

Spain v Russia: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

That was the last meaningful action of regular time, which meant Russia was extending its World Cup by at least half an hour and Spain had still not beaten a host nation at a major championship in 90 minutes. They had, however, out-passed the home side 845 to 224.

Six minutes into bonus time, Russia took advantage of the new rule allowing a fourth sub in extra time, bringing on history-maker Aleksandr Erokhin to help some tired legs in midfield.

Spain soon made their fourth change, too, introducing Valencia forward Rodrigo. These changes said much about the two teams’ ambitions at this point: Russia hanging on for penalties, Spain cursing themselves for still being out there.

Rodrigo nearly won it five minutes later, when he beat his man with a dummy, sprinted into the box and fired a shot Akinfeev again did well to save.

Five minutes after that, Spain’s players were baying for VAR after more grappling in the box. The noise that erupted when the referee finally waved played on was immense but was capped by the roar that greeted the final whistle and penalties.

Iniesta stepped up first and scored, Smolov replied but David De Gea got a fingertip to it. Pique scored his and Ignashevich, who was superb after his own goal, coolly replied.

Akinfeev then saved Koke’s effort, before Golovin, Ramos and Cheryshev scored theirs, meaning Aspas had to score. He did not and Russia went wild.

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England have connected with the fans again, says Gareth Southgate

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Gareth Southgate believes England have reconnected with fans that not so long ago were jeering his team and aiming paper planes at them.

Passion and excitement for the national team has waned in recent years, thanks in no small part to a group-stage exit at the last World Cup and the galling Euro 2016 defeat to Iceland.

Southgate was parachuted into the hot seat, having initially been reluctant to step into the Three Lions void, and has overseen an impressive change in fortunes since taking the reins.

England reached the World Cup and then the last 16 with a match to spare, with Colombia next up in Moscow this Tuesday.

“The players have been able to change perceptions of how an England team might play,” Southgate told BBC Sport. “We mustn’t lose sight of that.

“Ten months ago we qualified for the World Cup by beating Slovenia and people were throwing paper airplanes on to the pitch at Wembley.

“We were driving back to our hotel after beating Malta with some obscene chants being thrown at us from supporters.”

Southgate added: “I feel like we’ve started to connect the team with the public again.

“I feel like we’ve created excitement, like we’ve played in a style that has really shown an expression of what young English players are capable of, and I want us to continue doing that.”

England are looking to win a first knock-out match since 2006, building on the goodwill that increased with the Group G victories over Tunisia and Panama.

“I really believe in the group of players we have got,” Southgate said. “They are young. They are inexperienced.

“For some of them, this will be one of the biggest games they’ll have been involved in, but maybe not the biggest.

“We’ve always got to keep that in context for the players.”

Not being the biggest was a jibe Thibaut Courtois reportedly threw at fellow goalkeeper Jordan Pickford after Belgium’s back-ups beat England’s second string last week.

Southgate dismissed the Belgian’s off-hand remark that he would have caught Adnan Januzaj’s winner as he is 10 centimetres taller, so too any criticism for a goalkeeper who is yet to keep a clean sheet in Russia.

“I’m really pleased with his performances,” the England boss told talkSPORT.

“I don’t think he’s had much chance with the goals that have gone in, that’s a goalkeeper’s lot at times.

“He knows the belief I have in him. He is an important fit for the way we play.

“He’s got to make sure he knows the views of those that are important and, like everybody else, cut himself away from the outside views that can start to inhibit your thinking.”

When Courtois’ comments were put to him, Southgate added: “I remember when we were talking about young goalkeepers at a conference once.

“Martin Thomas, who’s a brilliant coach educator now, was under-21 goalkeeping coach and was talking about the difference between a couple of goalkeepers.

“Size-wise, he said at the end of the day, you’re talking about a Cadbury’s Creme Egg between them.

“Of course some keepers are 6ft 6in, but they have attributes that they are not so good at. And you get slightly smaller ones who are athletically better and have different skill sets.

“It’s rare to find perfection in anybody.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Watch: Neymar-led Brazil team arrive in Samara ahead of Mexico clash

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Five-time champions Brazil will face Mexico in the last-16 of the World Cup at the Samara Arena on July 2.

And Tite’s squad arrived in the city ahead of their round of 16 clash, to a loud welcome from their fans.

Canarinho were greeted in typical carnival fashion as they emerged from their team bus.

Find out how the Neymar-led squad was welcomed at their hotel, below:

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