Croatia have booked a date on 11 July with England in the FIFA World Cup semi-final after edging out hard-fighting hosts Russia in penalties in the match played in Sochi.
The thrilling quarter-final match had ended 1-1 after regulation time. It also ended 2-2 after extra time, leading to penalty shootout to decide the winner, in the match witnessed by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Croatian President Kolinda Grabart-Kitarovic.
Luka Modric-led Croatia won 4-3 and the team owed a lot of gratitude to their keeper, Danijel Subasic, who made a lot of saves and also saved one of the Russian penalties.
Croatia are only the second team in World Cup history – after Argentina in 1990 – to win two penalty shootouts in the same edition of the tournament.
Brazilian-born Mario Fernandes had kept Russia’s dream alive when he headed home in the 115th minute to level the scores and force penalties, but he and Fedor Smolov both failed to convert their spot-kicks.
Croatia, for whom Andrej Kramaric and Domagoj Vida had earlier found the net, advance to their first World Cup semi-final since 1998. They will face England, who beat Sweden 2-0 earlier, at the Luzhniki Stadium Moscow on Wednesday.
In contrast for Russia, who had taken the lead through another Denis Cheryshev wonder goal in the first half, there is only heartbreak as they finally go out.
They can however be proud of their efforts, with a run to the last eight exceeding expectations for a side written off as no-hopers before the tournament.
And it remains to be seen how quickly Croatia can recover from this draining night, having also been taken to extra time and penalties by Denmark in the last round.