De Futebol Thoughts from the 2018 World Cup

The 2018 World Cup is in the books. France is the champion. No one expected France to win the whole enchilada.

The French did.

This team flew under the radar. Everyone expected Brasil, Germany, Argentina, Spain and even Mexico to win it. Oh, how wrong the so-called pundits were.

The American press were building up the great pretender Mexico. After the Mexican win over Germany The USA press expected Mexico to make it to at least the quarterfinals.

Not so fast bucko, Brasil stood in the way and won with a strong 2-0 win.

Brasil lost to Belgium 2-0 in the quarterfinals.

Argentina barely made it out of the group stage. Thus, Argentinos earned the right to battle France in the round of sixteen.

In a matter of ten minutes in the second half France turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-1 advantage.

France won 4-3 however the final score was not the true reflection of how the French blew doors off of Argentina in that deadly eleven minute span to grab the match by the neck and choke the life out of a helpless Argentina squad.

The biggest surprise was Germany losing two matches in the group stage and thus bombed out and this quick exit shocked the Futebol world.

Japan almost made Belgium eat their own lunch in the round of sixteen. Belgium didn’t quit and scored three second half goals to win 3-2.

Belgium and France hooked up in the semifinals. The difference in the match was France’s lighten quick speed that led to the only goal in the match a header by Samuel Umtiti for the one nil win.

England came out of nowhere to earn a spot in the semifinals. Three Lions were the third youngest club in the World Cup. Nigeria was the youngest. France was the second youngest team assembled.

England lost a heart breaker to Croatia 2-1 in the semifinals. This devastating loss came on the heels of a thrilling 4-3 PK shootout win over Columbia the quarterfinals.

The two shockers of the 2018 World Cup were Russia making it to the quarterfinals. Russia defeated Spain 4-3 in a PK shootout. Spain crashed and burned out of the 2018 World Cup.

The other huge surprise was Croatia making to the finals against France.

The Croatians claimed Denmark, Russia and England on the way to the finals before losing to a superior French side 4-2.

Thus, in the end this 2018 World Cup was full of surprises however the quality of play was below par compared to other World Cups.

The cool thing about this World Cup the favorites wore the choke collar.

The Dogs won.

De Futebol France Wins The World Cup! A 4-2 win over Croatia!

France won the 2018 World Cup. The French were pressed hard throughout the match from a game never give up Croatia side in the end France won 4-2.

The score was not an indication of how close this match really was.

France dented the scoreboard first with a hard shot into the box off the foot of Antoine Griezmann that went budda bing budda boom of the Croatian defender Mario Mandzukic in the 18th minute.

Croatia never give up die hard attitude produced the equalizer in the 28th minute. Ivan Perisic perfect strike from the box made it one all.

France looked like they were on the ropes however a hand ball by Croatian defender Perisic in the 38th minute gave France the life line it needed. Antoine Griezmann nailed the gift to make 2-1 for France.

In the second half France imposed their dominance scoring two goals by Paul Pogba 59th minute and the brilliant strike by nineteen-year-old Kylian Mbappé 65th minute that salted match away for France.

The howler of the match came in the 69th minute when French keeper Hugo Loris decided to play cute zee pie with the rock. Loris thought he was Curley Neal instead he became Meadowlark Lemmon. The brilliant genius play led to the toe poke by Croatian Mario Mandzukic to cut the gap to 4-2.

Croatia ran out of gas and that was all she wrote.

Give Croatia a ton kudos for their play. The Croatians put up one hell of fight however in the end France was a superior team.

The Guardians Daniel Taylor:” When the decisive blows arrived it was the entire French squad in the victory scrum by the corner flag. Hugo Lloris, the France goalkeeper, had run the entire length of the pitch. All the substitutes were disappearing under one another. There were even a few members of the backroom staff contemplating joining in, and who could blame them? France were on their way to their second World Cup and a party was already underway behind the goal where the tricolours were fluttering.

Not even Croatia, with all their powers of durability, could recover from the second-half goals that Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappé scored in quick succession to open up a three-goal lead and ensure France will soon be wearing a shirt with two stars, rather than one, above their cockerel. Didier Deschamps has become only the third man in history to win the World Cup as a player and manager, standing alongside two giants of the game in Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer. Mbappé is a world champion at the age of 19 and, in the end, the embarrassing lapse from Lloris to let Mario Mandzukic pull one back for Croatia will not matter greatly.

France should be thought of as deserving champions, too, bearing in mind their assured performances throughout the tournament and any team that scores four times in a final is entitled to feel euphoric. That, however, told only part of the story and it was difficult not to sympathise with Croatia bearing in mind the narrative of the first half in particular, when Mandzukic scored an own goal and France were awarded a penalty because of a borderline VAR decision that will always polarise opinion.

Zlatko Dalic, the Croatia manager, has promised us his team would take defeat with dignity and his players kept to it in trying circumstances. Even at 4-1 down they refused to wave the white flag of surrender, rousing themselves for one last push after Mandzukic had punished Lloris’s slackness.

Croatia had begun this final as though affronted by the suggestion France were widely assumed to be the favourites. But the luck went against them in the key moments of the first half when the game took shape, starting when Marcelo Brozovic was penalised for an alleged foul on Antoine Griezmann in the build-up to the opening goal.

So many goals have been scored from set-plays in this World Cup but none has carried such significance or been shrouded in so much misfortune. Mandzukic was jumping between Pogba and Raphael Varane, straining to clear Griezmann’s cross, when the ball skimmed off the top of his head, eight yards from his own goal. His attempt to help out in defence had gone horribly wrong. There was nothing Danijel Subasic, Croatia’s goalkeeper, could do and France were ahead before any of their own players had managed a single attempt at goal.

It was the 53rd own goal in the history of the World Cup – going all the way back to a Mexican player, Manuel Rosas, doing the same against Chile in 1930. Nobody, however, had done it before in a final and presumably Rosas did not have to suffer the indignity, as Mandzukic did here, of the public announcer letting everyone know who was to blame.

Another side might have wilted. Except, of course, we should know enough about Croatia by now not to be surprised by their reaction. Ten minutes later, N’Golo Kanté became the first player to be booked. Luka Modric floated the free-kick to the far post and Ivan Perisic was waiting on the edge of the penalty area, anticipating where the ball might eventually arrive. Domagoj Vida turned the ball back to his teammate and the expertise in Perisic’s first touch opened up the chance to take aim. He let fly with a left-footed, diagonal shot that flew past Lloris at speed.

All this was rather unexpected given that there had been only four first-half goals in the previous seven finals. A splendid tournament always needs a splendid final and, in that respect, this one was certainly not lacking drama or incident. It was difficult, all the same, not to feel sympathy with the losing side given the stack of grievances that Croatia will take away with them. Even the free-kick on Griezmann before the opening goal looked generous, to say the least, and when it came to the penalty it was difficult to think Perisic had knowingly used his hand to intercept Blaise Matuidi’s flick-on from a 34th‑minute corner.

It certainly was not a straightforward decision for the Argentinian referee, Néstor Pitana, and the length of time he spent analysing the replays told its own story. Eventually the decision went against Perisic because it could be argued his hand was sticking out at an unnatural angle. Even that, however, was not clear given that he was stooping . Was Matuidi’s header on target or heading towards a teammate? The answer is no, to both questions. But maybe that is irrelevant. The ball did strike Perisic’s hand, however little he knew about it, and that was enough for the decision to go against him, no matter how tough that might seem. Griezmann held his nerve to guide the penalty past Subasic and, after nearly four minutes of arguments and counter-arguments, France were back in front.

The game was still finely poised until Pogba made it 3-1 just before the hour with a left-foot shot after Mbappé and Griezmann has set him up on the edge of the penalty area. Pogba’s first effort came back to him off a Croatian defender. The second was more controlled, wrong-footing Subasic in the process, and when Mbappé strode away to fire in France’s fourth goal six minutes later it was starting to feel like it could become a rout.

Instead, Manduzic took the ball off Lloris to make the final score more respectable from a Croatian perspective and, with 20 minutes still to play, they kept pushing forward, trying to pull off an improbable feat of escapology. It was too late and the jubilant winner could soon be seen throwing Deschamps into the air.

De Futebol Croatia Wins in Extra Time a 2-1 win over England

England scored first off, a sublime free kick from Kieran Trippier in the 5th minute. However, Croatia came back to score two goals to break England’s hearts to win 2-1 in extra time to advance to the finals against France.

Ivan Perisic leveled this puppy in the 68th minute with a toe poke off a ball that found the back of the net to make it one all.

The heart break came in the 109th minute.  Mario Mandzukic flat out beat the keeper and the entire England defense for the pulsating 2-1 win.

The match became a little chippie in the end however Croatia proved they were slightly superior to England.

Three Lions gave it all they had.

No one expected England nor Croatia to make it the semifinals. Sure, the young lions lost in the semifinals however this World Cup is a success for the guys.

No one expect England to make it this far.

Harry Kane stepped up to the plate and he is now on the way to becoming a world class player.

England will take on Belgium in the third-place match on Saturday.

The Daily Mail:” One lapse. That is all it takes in this rarest of atmospheres. Kieran Trippier lost his header to Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic ran off John Stones, and England were out of the World Cup.

It took Croatia 109 minutes of football to take the lead against England, but they edged it in the end. They were the better team in the second-half, they hit the post, Jordan Pickford made one magnificent save.

But let’s get one thing straight. England were not lucky to be here. They were not fortunate beneficiaries of a soft draw, or undeserving contenders for the 2018 World Cup. They were, in many ways, the best team here. Not in football terms, or technical terms. No-one is claiming them the match for France, or even Croatia, the finalists. But as a team, a band of brothers, a group of players amounting to more than the sum of their parts, England were outstanding.

There is no shame here, no failure. England did as well as could possibly be expected given their youth, inexperience and the absence of a playmaker in the class of Luka Modric.

Gareth Southgate, the manager, has done an exceptional job and the national team should be his to mould for another four years at least. He deserves that, and so do they, his loyal lieutenants.

Anyone who thinks England just got lucky, doesn’t know football. This game was the proof of it. They battled Croatia to a standstill, both teams exhausted, all energy and emotion spent.

They could not have given more, either of them and that a single goal separated them is fitting. Better that than to lose of penalties and see that hoodoo return. That is another curse that has been lifted at this World Cup.

Credit Croatia, too. This was a spirited performance after two knockout games that have reached penalties. When England took the lead after five minutes, and dominated the opening 30, it would have been easy to be overwhelmed.

Instead, they found a way back into the game, through Modric and man of the match Perisic, outstanding technical talents that point the way forward for Southgate and his men. But they know that, having come so close. They know there is a missing link, and the next step is finding it. Easier said than done.

Croatia were always going to be the strongest test England had faced in this competition to here, and so it proved. If England had the upper hand for the bulk of the first-half, the second – in its entirety – belonged to Croatia. This was the team England – the country, more than the team – feared.

Controlling the ball in midfield through Luka Modric, with Ivan Perisic quite brilliant coming in from the left. England looked ragged through that second 45 minutes, leggy, edgy, panicked.

In a seven minute spell, Croatia took them apart, physically and technically. Poor Kyle Walker was struck a devastating blow in the crotch from a shot by Perisic, collapsed, and when the ball did not go out of play, got up to clear the recycled cross. Then he fell again. It was a heroic moment. Whether it played a part in what happened next is hard to say.

Just three minutes later Sime Vrsaljko hit a superb deep cross from the right, and Perisic drifted off Kieran Tripper and attacked the ball. Walker went for a diving headed clearance but Perisic nipped in first and met it with a volleyed flick past Jordan Pickford.

A high boot? Possibly, but Walker was stooping, so it was a judgement call. Referee Cuneyt Cakir went with the scorer. To be fair we would have moaned like hell had he disallowed one of ours like that.

The pressure was now unrelenting. Perisic capitalised on the growing uncertainty in England’s back line and hit the far post with a shot, Ante Rebic putting a tame rebound into the arms of Pickford. This was as rattled as England had looked all tournament. Pickford came for a high ball, didn’t get it, and Perisic shot over, the goal unguarded.

And yet there were moments when England’s strengths surfaced once more. Substitute Marcus Rashford won a free-kick, which Trippier curled in only for Harry Kane to steer a free header wide. The glorious fifth minute seemed an age away as the game moved into extra-time.

It is a very select group, those that have scored for England direct from free-kicks. Even more exclusive, the little club that have done it at a World Cup. It’s David Beckham, actually. Just him. One against Colombia, most recently against Ecuador in 2006. Still if he does ever decide to form an England World Cup Free-Kick Scorers Society at least he’ll have company at their annual ball. He’ll have Kieran Trippier after Wednesday night.

Just five minutes gone, first real attack of the game. What a start it was for Trippier and England. There can be little doubt now that we are watching the best deliverer of a dead ball this country has had since Beckham. We’ve already seen his first-time crosses, his vicious perfectly flighted corners, but he has never scored a free-kick for England. No time like the present then. No time like a World Cup semi-final.

It began when Dele Alli was fouled by Luka Modric just inside the penalty area D. England had been on red alert for Modric and what he could do, so it was ironic that Croatia were suffering with the pace and movement of England’s forward midfield instead. A trio of England players stood around the ball deliberating, but the suspicion always was that it would be Trippier’s responsibility at this range.

He did not disappoint. The whole Croatia wall jumped but somehow the Tottenham man got it up, over and down to leave Danijel Subasic grasping at thin air in Croatia’s goal. The ball passed over Dejan Lovren’s head en route. Not small, Lovren. It was a quite exquisite free-kick. Beckham would have been proud of it. So, for that matter, would Cristiano Ronaldo – or Roberto Carlos.

n the bench, Gareth Southgate pumped his fists and then returned to default concentration mode. Five minutes is desperately early to take the lead in a World Cup semi-final. Better than going behind after five, obviously. But it’s an age to defend that lead – and, as against Tunisia when this campaign began, England squandered several chances to take the pressure off.

In the 14th minute, a Trippier corner was met by Harry Maguire – when are they not? – and he steered his header low towards the far post. A touch from a lurker and England would have been two ahead but no-one was there. Maybe England are so used to scoring headers direct from these dead balls, they aren’t following in.

Then the chance that amazed and frustrated in equal measure. Frustrated because it was a genuinely good chance missed by England; amazed because it was Harry Kane who fluffed it. The pass from Jesse Lingard was perfect and suddenly Kane was clear. Free of Croatia’s defence only Subasic to beat.

He tried to slot it past him and the whole stadium expected to see the ball come to rest in the goal, but no. Subasic saved and Kane scrambled desperately to be first to the rebound, now at an acute angle. He tried to whip it in, but the ball hit the near post, came out, struck Subasic and spun up in the air across goal and out on the other side. The second chance was tough. But the first? In Kane’s world that was a sitter.

Six minutes later, England could have scored again. Alli, enjoying his best game of the tournament, the provider, finding Lingard whose attempt to pass it into the net from the edge of the area was ambitious and travelled the wrong side of the post.

But this was still a huge performance from England, with Lovren struggling to contain Raheem Sterling in particular. It was clearly the plan to use his pace in running races against Croatia’s back line, and it worked. With Alli and Lingard skipping around in his orbit, England looked dangerous.

Of course, when Modric got on the ball so did Croatia, and the 10 minutes before half-time he controlled. It didn’t add up to much, though – an Ante Rebic shot comfortably saved by Jordan Pickford, and a few important interceptions by Ashley Young and John Stones. In the 19th minute, a crossfield pass by Modric picked out Ivan Perisic, whose low shot went just wide, but England’s chances were better, and clearer. Not that this stopped the jangling nerves, mind you. But it is hard to imagine what would, at this late stage.

De Futebol Croatia wins in a PK Shootout over Russia to advance to The Semifinals of The World Cup

Russia and Croatia engaged in another one of the wild and crazy PK shootouts. Croatia advances to the World Cup semifinals with a thrilling 4-3 PK shootout win over Russia.

England-Croatia will duke it out in one semifinal while France-Belgium will engage in war in the other semifinal match up.

The Daily Mail:” Russia’s emotional and stubborn journey through their own World Cup ended in heartbreak just before midnight on the Black Sea when they lost a penalty shoot-to Croatia at the Fisht Olympic Stadium.

Croatia will now face England in the last four in Moscow on Wednesday night and on this evidence there is nothing particular for Gareth Southgate and his players to fear. Luka Modric and his team-mates will certainly present England with a different test to any they have faced so far in Russia. They will play on the front foot and attempt to take the game to England, something teams like Sweden, Colombia, Panama and Tunisia have not done.

However, Croatia will be tired after this gruelling and emotional night. They have played two lots of 120 minutes in the knockout stages, winning a shoot out against Denmark in the last sixteen, and that may take its toll in three days’ time.

For Russia, this was a tough night. They had come back from the dead with an equaliser from defender Mario Fernandes seven minutes from the end of extra-time to force penalties. But sadly it was the Brazilian-born defender who missed the crucial kick in the shoot-out.

For Croatia, Marcelo Brozovic, Modric, Domagoj Vida and, finally, Ivan Rakitic all scored their kicks with only Mateo Kovacic missing his country’s second effort.

But after Russia had recovered from the shock of Fedor Smolov missing their first kick with a successful strike from Alan Dzagoev, Fernandes dragged his team’s third one horribly wide meaning that subsequent goals from Sergey Ignashevich and Daler Kuziaev were rendered meaningless when Rakitic converted Croatia’s final kick.

Croatia had earlier looked to be on their way through after a header by Vida had been nudged in to the net by substitute and former Manchester City and Tottenham defender Vedran Corluka in the first period of extra time.

But then the Russians were awarded a free-kick for handball on the edge of the penalty area in the 113th minute and when Dzagoev whipped it in Fernandes rose to head it in to the corner. Rarely has a World Cup ever heard a noise like it.

Croatia had dominated the 90 minutes of normal time but had fallen behind when Russian golden boy Denis Cheryshev scored from 25 yards on the half hour It was fantastic strike and his fourth goal of a fairytale tournament.

Zlatko Dalic’s team struck back almost immediately through Andrej Kramaric who headed in a cross from Mario Mandzukic but the closest they came to winning the game in normal time came when the disappointing Ivan Perisic struck the post when he should have scored in the 61st minute.

How much Croatia will stretch England will probably depend on their energy reserves as much as anything.

When their goalkeeper Danijel Subasic went down with cramp in the 88th minute, it started a trend. By the end of the extra period, some of the Croatian players could barely stand. How they managed to get themselves through the shoot out only they will know.

Croatia have also lacked something of a cutting edge in the knockout stages. When they embarrassed Argentina 3-0 in the group phase, they looked as though they would prove themselves to be one of the tournament’s most expansive and dangerous teams.

However that hasn’t really happened. Croatia were not impressive against a modest Denmark team and although they dominated the ball and the territory here in Sochi, much of their football broke down when they reached the edge of the Russian penalty area.

When their goalkeeper Danijel Subasic went down with cramp in the 88th minute, it started a trend. By the end of the extra period, some of the Croatian players could barely stand. How they managed to get themselves through the shoot out only they will know.

Croatia have also lacked something of a cutting edge in the knockout stages. When they embarrassed Argentina 3-0 in the group phase, they looked as though they would prove themselves to be one of the tournament’s most expansive and dangerous teams.

However that hasn’t really happened. Croatia were not impressive against a modest Denmark team and although they dominated the ball and the territory here in Sochi, much of their football broke down when they reached the edge of the Russian penalty area.

Modric remains their most dangerous player by a distance, driving his team relentlessly forward on the back of invention and sheer hard work. His penalty in the shoot-out carried a bit of luck – striking the goalkeeper and the post before finding the back of the net – but it is hard to say he didn’t deserve it.

Beyond that, though, Croatia have looked a little blunt. Perisic – who has interested Manchester United – was poor here as was the Juventus centre forward Mandzukic. He missed a passable early chance and never really recovered. Barcelona’s midfielder Ivan Rakitic, meanwhile, was only fitfully impressive.

So the English can sleep soundly at night between now and Wednesday. Not only have the avoided a politically sensitive semi-final with Russia, they face a team that should concern them but not necessarily worry them. We would all have taken that back on June 14.

De Futebol Russia defeats Spain 4-3 in PK Shootout! Croatia wins a 3-2 PK Shootout!

Russia pulled the upset city special of the year defeating Spain 4-3 to advance on the dreaded PK shootout.

The Guardians Sid Lowe:” When the moment came, nerves taking hold of the Luzhniki Stadium, 144 million Russians and so many more across the globe looking upon him, Igor Akinfeev flew one way and the ball flew the other. But when it appeared that he might be beaten somehow he, like his team, found a way to win. His left leg swung to kick Iago Aspas’s penalty clear and send the host country through to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

Suddenly, white shirts flooded the pitch and in the stands the crowd erupted, celebrating the most improbable success.

It had been said that they were the worst team in Russia’s history but they are still here, in their own tournament. It has been said that their opponents were the best team in Spain’s history, but no more. This was almost certainly Andrés Iniesta’s final international and others will follow the man who scored the winning goal in 2010, the last of their golden generation.

Ultimately it had been an epic, historic night. It had been a long one too, exhaustion and anxiety preparing an explosion. To resist is to win, as Juan Negrín, president during the Spanish civil war, famously declared. Russiahad resisted, all right.

Spain passed the ball 1,137 times but they could not pass Russia. There had been an own goal and a penalty and not much else until, at the last, there were nine more penalties, the first shootout of the World Cup. One of them, Russia’s last, was scored by Denis Cheryshev, raised in Spain; two were saved by Akinfeev. Koke and Aspas missed them. It was not to be. It has been a strange, strange World Cup for Spain, and it was a long evening.

It was 7.45pm when they were finally eliminated. It had been just after 5.30pm when a Mexican wave began to make its way around the Luzhniki, but this was no celebration, and certainly not like the one that would follow later. It was, instead, born of boredom, maybe even a little resignation.

Russia were trailing, their plan to resist damaged by an own goal which arrived after just 11 minutes, and any hope of a place in the quarter-finals which few of them had really believed was possible, slipping bloodlessly away. As supporters stood, sat and stood again, the wave circulating the stands while in front of them the ball circulated on the pitch. A little slower, perhaps, but it did. And always at the feet of Spain.

t was a recurring scene. Spain’s players passing, Russia’s waiting. No one in any kind of hurry, moves tending to break down on a technicality or when it went to the one Spain player with no intention of passing short – David de Gea. At that time the count said 231-58, and it was slowly rising. Suddenly, though, a long ball up the pitch saw Artem Dzyuba leap with Sergio Ramos, beating him to the ball and Russia were running, Roman Zobnin bending a shot just past a post – a warning that there was a game going on here.

Until then, there virtually had not been. Perhaps they had been stung by the Mexican wave. Something shifted certainly: there was an intent now that had been absent before, and soon the scoreline would shift; now there really was a game. And then, once they had levelled, they tried to make sure there was not a game again.

Mario Fernandes ran up the right and drew a corner. Aleksandr Samedov took it and Dzyuba leapt to head. Gerard Piqué jumped with an arm raised above his head, inviting trouble. The ball rebounded from it and the referee, Björn Kuipers, pointed to the spot, from where Dzyuba finished calmly. It was 1-1, and it was only Russia’s second shot on target. Spain had none. Diego Costa had barely touched the ball, the penalty areas virtually untrodden territory. They had led early when Ramos tumbled with Sergei Ignashevich, the ball rebounding off the Russian’s foot and into the net.

It appeared the perfect start, and Spain took control. As Russia sat deep, a five-man defence reluctant to step out, there appeared to be no danger for Spain – which might just have been the most dangerous thing about it. The Luzhniki was lulled into a warm afternoon snooze, virtually nothing of note happening bar the occasional touch from Isco, until the wave awoke them all, and the goal following soon after.

Shocked, Spain had more chances in the final two minutes of the first half than in the previous 43, but if that seemed to herald something a little swifter, some intent, it did not. And so it continued, sapping the life out of everyone.

Time ticked, Spain pushed, but this drifted. Spain sent on Aspas, the man most adept at accelerating, the saviour against Morocco. He was quickly involved here, but a cruel fate awaited. Aspas cleverly laid off for Iniesta with his chest, the shot from the edge of the area drawing a sharp save from Akinfeev, but from the rebound Aspas struck just wide.

Time passed slowly. The best opportunity, if it can be called that, fell to Fedor Smolov, who cut inside and swung a shot wide of the far post, but it was Spain who carried the ball forward. As they did Russia’s fans whistled for the referee to blow; that meant 30 more minutes to endure, for everyone, but the prize at the end was gigantic.

Rodrigo was sent on, he turned sharply, raced up the right, into the area, and drew a sharp save from Akinfeev, then saw the rebound fall to Daniel Carvajal dashing into the area. His shot, though, was blocked. This was into the second period of extra time now and for the first time, it was getting frantic.

The rain came down, exhaustion gripped, and Spain demanded the VAR as Ramos fell in the area, held as he went. Up in the VAR room they did not see anything much of note. Rather like the rest of the people in the stadium, then. That said, they no longer wanted to. They just wanted this to end.

Russia’s target drew closer: penalties. They had sought them from the start. Twelve seconds after the clock showed 120 minutes, they were almost denied, Rodrigo’s low shot saved by Akinfeev. And then, at last, the whistle went. And Akinfeev flew.

Croatia beat Denmark 3-2 in a wild PK shootout.

The Guardians David Hytner:” There are some matches in which the spectre of penalties begins to loom with indecent haste. Everybody knew where this last-16 showdown was heading from an early point in the second half – possibly even sooner – and yet it might have needed only a single penalty.

The second period of extra time was rumbling to its seemingly inevitable conclusion when Luka Modric finally picked a pass and, all of sudden, Ante Rebic was clean through. He rounded Kasper Schmeichel and was brought down by the chasing Mathias Jørgensen. Penalty. Modric took it but his composure deserted him. The kick was too close to Kasper Schmeichel and he pulled off the save. And so the match proceeded to the full version, the fate of these nations coming down to the time-honoured test of nerve.

Croatia passed it, just about, after a hit-and-miss shoot-out – which neatly reflected what had gone before. After two misses apiece, the Denmarksubstitute, Nicolai Jørgensen strode forward and saw his kick saved by Danijel Subasic. Ivan Rakitic had one to win it and he made no mistake. It is Croatia who advance to a quarter-final against Russia in Sochi on Saturday. Modric would score in the shoot-out. His blushes were saved.

The weird thing was that the game had exploded into life at the outset, with the goals coming with the first two moves. Only once previously at a World Cup had both teams scored inside four minutes – the group tie between Argentina and Nigeria in 2014.

What followed was the slow death of a spectacle. The goals were undercut by comedy defending but there would be little to smile about for the remaining 116 minutes.

Croatia had entered as arguably the team of the group phase. Everything had gone serenely for them and the thought did occur as to how they might react to a setback. The question was duly posed inside the opening minute.

Denmark swapped their left-backs, with Jonas Knudsen coming in for Jens Stryger Larsen, and the new man brought the weapon of his long throw. From the first one, launched from the right touchline, a gaggle of defenders jumped but nobody connected and the ball broke for Thomas Delaney.

The midfielder’s control was instant and he made a nice move and pass for Mathias Jørgensen, who saw the shooting chance open up. He went for it, jabbing the effort low, and what followed seemed to happen in slow motion.

Domagoj Vida threw himself into a block but he did not make contact and the goalkeeper, Danijel Subasic, was slow to get down. He got a hand to the ball but he could not prevent it from trickling inside the near post. It was a horribly soft concession and Subasic will not enjoy watching the replays.

Croatia’s response was immediate and this time it was the Danes who could curse their defending. Ante Rebic was afforded too much space on the right and his short pass inside released Sime Vrsaljko, who banged over the cross. It did not look threatening but Henrik Dalsgaard’s clearance was panicked, it hit the covering Andreas Christensen in the face and ricocheted to Mario Mandzukic, who swivelled and shot inside the near post. What a mess. What a start.

The remainder of the game felt like a reaction to the initial chaos. Neither team had previously conceded in open play at the tournament; they were not exactly disposed to such openness, and they sought to reimpose order. Caution held sway and it became an awfully tough watch.

Croatia tried to get on to the front foot in the first half, with Modric and Ivan Rakitic playing as No 8s. They had openings but on each occasion, the final action was missing. Rakitic and Rebic forced Kasper Schmeichel into a double save before Ivan Perisic fired the rebound high; Dejan Lovren glanced wide from a Modric free-kick – a good chance – and Rakitic ran on to a cutback only to shoot tamely.

Åge Hareide had tweaked his lineup but the creative burden still rested with Christian Eriksen. Almost everything in open play went through him. He flickered in the first half, seeing one effort blocked and playing in Martin Braithwaite, who shot straight at Subasic from a tight angle. There was also the moment when Eriksen floated a cross towards the back post and watched it drift against the angle of the upright. Subasic was relieved.

There were times when Eriksen pushed so high that he looked like a second striker. His stamina is the stuff of legend and the idea was that he could lead the press with the striker, Andreas Cornelius, who would be replaced by Nicolai Jørgensen.

It was tight and subdued; the emphasis on tactics rather than instinct and free rein. The locals in the crowd amused themselves with chants of Ros-Si-Ya. They were still giddy from their team’s penalty shootout win over Spain in the earlier kick-off and they were checking out what their quarter-final opponents had to offer. On this evidence, it was not a lot.

The entertainment value was low; the second half and extra-time featured little more than hopeful shooting from distance and the Modric penalty. It would need the full shoot-out to separate them.