Croatia defeat host nation Russian Federation on penalties to reach semi-final

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Fyodor Smolov saw Russia's first penalty saved by Danijel Subasic and, although Russian Federation goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev saved a Mateo Kovacic kick, the hosts' fate was sealed when Mario Fernandes fired completely wide from their third attempt.

"This was not a handsome game, it was a fight, a battle for the semi-final", added Dalic, who broke down in tears after Croatia confirmed a first World Cup semi-final appearance since 1998.

Denis Cheryshev fired the hosts into a 31st minute lead with a spectacular strike but Andrej Kramaric headed home to make it 1-1 six minutes before the half-time break.

While Russia also started well in Saturday's energy-sapping quarter-final duel against Croatia, they ran out of steam and ended bowing out against the Luka Modric-led side.

Speaking on RTÉ Television, Hamann said: "They'll be going into the semi-final full of confidence".

The Croats hadn't advanced to the semifinals at the World Cup since 1998, when the country made its first appearance.

"We said we can only prove our worth by working hard - I believe not only did people start to trust us, but the entire country of Russian Federation is in love with us, they know what the national team is worth".

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The second half gave us very little but Ivan Perisic looked certain to score when he shot from inside the area, the ball hit the inside of the post but somehow didn't go in.

Just moments later and the visitors had a corner and then a goal as defender Domagoj Vida headed home from the set piece. Igor Akinfeev later blocked an attempt from Mateo Kovacic.

The game finished 2-2 after extra-time following a late equaliser by Russia's Mario Fernandes.

But Fernandes, the man whose goal took it to pens, put the ball wide the very next spot kick.

Rakitic then scored his second penalty shoot-out victor in two games.

Real Madrid star Luka Modric, earlier goalscorer Vida and Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic all converted their penalty kicks, handing the Croatians a 4-3 win in the penalty shootout.

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