Croatia and England to meet at Fifa WC semis

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He grabbed the back of his leg near his hamstring and it appeared he may need a substitute.

Cherchesov may have relied a little too instinctively on cagey, ten-behind-the-ball tactics once Spain and Croatia's excellent passers were the hurdles to cross in the knockouts but in adversity, there was a spirit to admire in a Russian Federation of many veterans - Sergei Ignashevich turns 39 next weekend - and many men who bore some very unflattering assessments of how ordinary they were when they began their adventure.

Russian Federation got off to the worst possible start, with Fedor Smolov's feeble attempt at a Panenka easily saved by Danijel Subasic. Croatia will now face off with England on Wednesday in the semi-final, with the victor set to meet one of either France or Belgium in the final of the FIFA World Cup 2018.

"Putin called me during the day, and he called me right now", Cherchesov said.

In the other semifinal pair will meet France and Belgium.

The Villarreal winger replaces Yuri Zhirkov, who has been struggling with a calf injury, in the only change made by coach Stanislav Cherchesov following the penalty shootout win over Spain in the last 16. Akinfeev denied Mateo Kovacic and nearly kept out Luka Modric's effort from 12 yards out, but Rakitic converted the decisive effort to seal a 4-3 win in the shootout.

With all subsequent penalties converted by both teams, the onus was on Rakitic to do the same and book Croatia's date with England for the semis.

2 - Croatia are just the second side to progress on a penalty shootout in consecutive knockout games in a World Cup tournament after Argentina in 1990 (v Yugoslavia and Italy).

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"The boys were great", she told HRT, although she said she regretted that the host nation was eliminated.

The first from Smolov was abysmal, a poor central chip that Subasic saved simply by sticking up a hand. I asked him and he said he was OK, it did not affect him much. "Thank God we have shown our character".

For a while it didn't look like Subasic would be around for a shootout.

Tied after 90 minutes, the game went to extra-time, and Croatia took a big step towards sealing victory after defender Domagoj Vida headed his team 2-1 up from a corner kick.

The game stayed locked at 1-1 through the final whistle, prompting two periods of extra time. At the completion of extra time the referee awarded the penalty shoot-out, which will be decisive in the battle of Russian Federation and Croatia.

The former Leicester City striker's looping cross eventually found its way to Ivan Perišić, who struck the post - with Igor Akinfeev well beaten, as the game eventually went to extra-time.

"It wasn't a handsome game, but it was a battle", said Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic, who, like many fans, was in tears afterward.

So when time and reality finally caught up with Russian Federation in the quarterfinals today in Sochi, the team's elimination brought feelings of sadness and joy. At that point, Subasic had to go the rest of the way for the Croatians. This was not a handsome game, it was a fight, a battle for the semifinal. "And he who does, wins".

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