After 120 minutes of nerve-wracking drama in Sochi's Fisht Stadium, Croatia's golden generation eliminated hosts Russian Federation from the FIFA World Cup 2018 in the penalty shootout to book their place in the semi-finals for the first time since 1998.
Croatia's Luka Modric, left, celebrates after he scores the penalty shootout during the quarterfinal match between Russia and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Fisht Stadium, in Sochi, Russia, Saturday, July 7, 2018. I told him we were disappointed.
His shoot-out miss proved pivotal, however, especially after Smolov's weak attempt at a chipped penalty was saved by Subasic.
"We expect a very hard and tough, tight, demanding match, every match at this World Cup is like that", Modric said at a post-match press conference, broadcast via FIFATV. For the rest of the first half and the entirety of the second half, both sides were locked in a back-and-forth battle, but neither side was able to add to the scoreboard.
Denis Cheryshev's swerving left-footer from the edge of the box had opened the scoring for Russian Federation in the 31st minute of normal time but an unmarked Andrej Kramaric headed in a cross from Mario Mandzukic eight minutes later to restore parity. The best part about a World Cup is that it throws up talents like Denis Cheryshev for the world to see.
They will be up against a young and powerful England side led by tournament top scorer Harry Kane from Tottenham Hotspur, Modric's previous club in London before moving on to Real. Russian Federation refused to quit though, tying the game when Mario Fernandes nodded home a cross from Alan Dzagoev at the back post with five minutes left.
World Cup hosts Russian Federation say pressure will be replaced by pleasure and national pride as they bid to sweep past Croatia and into the last four on Saturday.
Looking to soak up pressure and counter attack, the hosts defended very deep after the break.
In 1998 they were beaten 2-1 by France in the semi-final while 2014 saw them lost 3-1 to Brazil in the opening group stage game.
The giant forward seemed to nearly accidentally touch the ball into the path of Cheryshev and with nearly nowhere to go, the 26-year-old unleashed a thunderous left-footed strike into the top corner to leave Danijel Subasic rooted to the spot and demonstrating exactly why Real Madrid afforded a place in their academy to the player.
Less than 15 minutes into the restart, Croatia were presented with a golden opportunity to take the lead in the game, although, Inter Milan's Ivan Perisic only managed to hit the post from eight yards out. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) header from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Three of the four goals were headers and England's two headed goals in a 2-0 win over Sweden earlier in the evening completed a productive day for the critical part of the body.