By Izuchukwu Okosi
Spain on Sunday were eliminated from the 2018 FIFA World Cup by hosts Russia 4-3 on penalties in their Round of 16 clash to reach the quarterfinals stage after it ended 1-1 at regulation time.
Spain prior to Sunday’s Round of 16 game were unbeaten in their last 23 games (W15 D8), the longest current run amongst the 32 teams at the 2018 World Cup. Their last defeat came two years ago against Italy in the round of 16 of the European Championships (0-2, June 2016).
Spain’s goal came in the 12th minute thanks to an own goal by Russia’s Sergey Ignashevich who tangled with Sergio Ramos for the ball as Asensio played in a free kick.
Russia and CSKA Moscow forward Aleksandr Golovin who is a transfer interest of English side Chelsea curled in a right footed placed shot which missed target by inches as Artem Dzyuba shrugged off Ramos’ challenge to lay the ball to his path.
Gerard Pique was adjudged to have handled the ball deliberately in the 42nd minute to gift Russia the World Cup’s 26th penalty kick. Dzyuba stepped up and converted the spot kick to make it 1-1.
Andres Iniesta forced a decent save from Igor Akinfeev with a low shot from the edge of the Russian penalty box but Iago Aspas’ follow up effort was off target.
The game went into extra time and Russia’s Aleksandr Erokhin made history as he came off the bench in place of Daliar Kuziaev to become the first player that will be substituted on as a fourth substitute in the knockout stages of the FIFA World Cup.
Rodrigo turned brilliantly from his marker in the 108th minute after a pass from Pique but his shot was matched by Akinfeev’s smart save.
Valencia’s Rodrigo soon came on in place of Asensio to hold that record from Spain’s perspective.
The Spaniards protested an untidy challenge on Pique by Ignashechev but the VAR team ruled there was no major infringement, no penalty.
The game went into shootouts and Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos converted their spot kicks for Spain while Koke and Iago Aspas missed theirs. Fedor Smolov, Sergey Ignashechiv, Aleksandr Golovin, Denis Cheryshev all scored for the hosts.