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WORLD CUP 2018

Spain 1-1 Russia: World Cup 2018 last 16 match, hosts win on penalties

Spain went ahead through an early own goal which was cancelled out when Piqué handled in the box. Spain were unable to break the stubborn Russian resistance and go out on penalties.
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Spain 1-1 Russia: World Cup 2018 last 16 match, hosts win on penalties
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Spain 1-1 (3-4 penalties): match report

It was an unbalanced, disjointed build-up after Julen Lopetegui was sacked as the Spanish manager just days before they kicked off their World Cup campaign. And the trauma from that departure never went away through four games. Spain were unbalanced and disjointed in every game they played with piles of possession but no clear plan in attack blended with an unsound defence filled with players who were all too aware of their own unsoundness.

Against Russia, the hosts, Spain dominated possession as they are wont to do and had the lead after Sergio Ramos occupied Sergei Ignashevich to the point of distraction when he backheeled the ball into his own net with his back away from the incoming free.

Spain continued to own the ball but they were to be undone when Artem Dyzuba caused Gerard Pique to panic and handle the ball from a corner. It was the big man who stepped up and drove the penalty home on 41 minutes. Spain were shocked but there was also a sense of inevitability to the equaliser. Russia survived to half-time and put a plan in place to sit back, soak up pressure and hope for something on the counter.

They did just that as the game turned into a parody of a what tiki-taka should be as Spain attacked time and time again with no real agenda up front and large periods of the ball filled with sideways passing. They couldn't find Costa and didn't seem to want to and were happy to sit and pass the ball across the field.

Chances came and went but nothing of note happened for the remainder of normal time. In extra-time when Rodrigo went close and Carvajal couldn't finish the rebound. A cross came in from a free and Ramos and Pique seemed to be hauled to the ground, which the referee decided against whistling for. He got a second opinion from the VAR lads and didn't change his mind. And it was to penalties we went.

Russia scored all four of theirs as Koke missed Spain's third before Aspas missed Spain's fifth. Russia, after soaking up all that pressur, were through to a quarter final and Spain were going home with a post mortem to come and a chance for a deep run into the competition left in Moscow.

Spain 1-1 Russia (3-4 penalties): latest updates

Spain - Russia: match preview

Rob Train

Spain coach Fernando Hierro likened his side’s group stage at the 2018 World Cup to that of La Roja’s ultimately successful campaign in South Africa eight years ago.

Spain lost their opener against Switzerland in Durban but went on to top Group H on goal difference ahead of Chile before marching inexorably towards the title with a run of 1-0 victories in the knock-out rounds based on a prescription of passing the opposition into a football-induced coma before finding a late winner.

A repeat of that in Russia appears unlikely: after the Switzerland game, Spain conceded only once more in the entire tournament. Hierro’s side leaked three in their opening game against Portugal and five overall in the group stage. In qualifying under Julen Lopetegui, Spain were breached just three times in 10 games while rattling in 33 at the other end.

Hierro’s side avoided facing Uruguay in the last 16 by dint of a single goal. On the evidence of Saturday night’s performance by Óscar Tabárez’s team, who sent the European champions home in a 2-1 victory, Spain can consider themselves fortunate not to have faced such a stern examination this early in the tournament.

However, Russia have proved their critics wrong in spectacular style. The lowest-ranked team in the tournament may not even have been present had they been forced to go through qualifying but the hosts unexpectedly emerged from Group A after beating Saudi Arabia 5-0 and seeing off Egypt 3-1. The 3-0 defeat by Uruguay was perhaps a steadier gauge of Russia’s standing in the greater scheme but as Cristiano Ronaldo and Fernando Santos discovered, Los Charrúas are genuine contenders for the title.

Stanislas Cherchesov dipped into Russian proverb in his pre-match press conference when he said that “anyone can be God if he tries to.” The hosts will go into the game as underdogs but with their own fans likely to significantly outnumber Spain’s and the advantage of playing on home turf, nothing can be ruled out.

Hierro’s primary concern will be to stop the haemorrhage at the back but he has confirmed that under-fire Manchester United keeper David de Gea will retain his place. Whether the former Real Madrid defender elects to shuffle his outfield deck remains to be seen but Iago Aspas and Marco Asensio have strong claims for a start in Moscow with the waning influence of Andrés Iniesta and David Silva’s uncharacteristic dip in form all-too evident in the 1-0 victory over Iran and the 2-2 draw with Morocco, when Aspas ensured top spot in stoppage time.

Russia do not lack creative players in Denis Cheryshev and Aleksandr Golovin and Cherchesov should be able to call upon Alan Dzagoev again after the CSKA playmaker limped out of Russia’s opening game after just 24 minutes. Starting right-back Igor Smolnikov is suspended, which will mean a ninth cap for Mário Fernandes, but as Russia have proved so far at the World Cup, where five different players have found the net, the sum of their parts is more important than the individual.

Hierro is yet to find that balance in his side and was reliant on the battering ram brilliance of Diego Costa and the velvet touch of Isco to see Spain into the last 16. Both will start in Moscow, but their supporting cast may be a little different as the accidental La Roja boss seeks a formula that genuinely harks back to 2010.