Russia Pulls Off Huge Upset, Knocks Out Spain In 2018 World Cup
on Jul 02, 2018 10:18 PM EDT
Host nation Russia did not disappoint the home fans as they upset Spain 4-3 via penalty shoot-out on Sunday at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Ranked as the lowest-seeded squad in the tournament, the Russians survived a 1-1 stalemate in the first 120 minutes. Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev provided the most dramatic twist in the victory as he tallied two saves during the shoot-out before stopping another one in the fifth round to give the home team a reason to celebrate.
Third Biggest Upset In History
Russia's victory over Spain is also considered as the third biggest upset in the multicolored history of the World Cup. The Russians are ranked 70th in the world compared to Spain who is seeded in 10th place.
The victory didn't come easy for the Russians as they made a terrible error early by giving Spain the lead courtesy of an own goal in the 12th-minute. The Russians tried to make some headway but Marco Asensio's volley failed to hit the target.
Nonetheless, Artem Dzyuba was able to draw a penalty from Gerard Pique who was called for a handball just inside the box. Dzyuba knotted the game at 1-apiece in 41st-minute courtesy of a deafening penalty that captivated the crowd in the arena.
The Spaniards had a chance to take back the lead late when decorated midfielder Andres Iniesta fired a 20-yard shot but his attempt was denied by Akinfeev to force the shoot-out. Iniesta and Fedor Smolov scored one each for their respective countries at the start of the shootout.
Pique followed suit Iniesta's shot with a score of his own before Sergey Ignashevich tied the count at 2-all. Koke tried to give the lead back to Spain but his shot was stopped by Akinfeev.
Aleksandr Golovin and Denis Cheryshev also scored for Russia before Sergio Ramos converted one for Spain. However, the home team had the final laugh as Akinfeev's foot denied the shot of Iago Aspas to help the Russians move into the next round on Sunday.
The early exit of Spain has drawn comparisons into their heartbreaking elimination in the 2002 World Cup, wherein they suffered a quarterfinal loss to South Korea via a penalty shoot-out.
The 2010 World Cup champion is just among of the many top teams who have been eliminated from this year's competition. Other nations who are no longer in contention for the title are Germany, Argentina, and Portugal.
Andres Iniesta Retires From International Play
Meanwhile, Iniesta will be hanging up his boots following Spain's elimination loss to Russia. Iniesta entered the game in the 67th-minute while converting a penalty shot in the shoot-out.
The Spanish playmaker has scored 13 goals while appearing in 131 matches for his country. Iniesta also played a huge role in Spain's 2010 World Cup triumph.
Iniesta also led the Spaniards in winning the 2008 and 2012 European titles. With the absence of Iniesta, Spain will now be banking on the ability of David Silva and Isco to facilitate the offense in their future international matches.