Thank God for Mother Russia.
For sticking two goals together.
‘Cos Spain don’t know how.
De Geeaaa! Geeeaaa!… Is quickly becoming an Outkast amongst Spanish faithful as the 2010 Champions were bundled out of Russia 2018 at the hands (safer than De Gea’s) of the host nation.
Spain started with history on their side, having not lost for two years prior to the Cup, whilst Russia were debutants at their first ever world cup knockout final since the days of the USSR.
In a game that went all the way, a large part of the action came in the first half with Russian fans not having to wait long for the first goal, albeit at the wrong end. A 12th minute tussle in the box saw the ankle of Sergei Ignashevich draw first blood. Although, Russian fans may not have noticed due to Ramos claiming last touch in true Harry Kane style.
Russia was able to answer back in the 40th, winning a spot kick from an unnatural arm in the air from Piqué. The penalty was easily converted by Dzyuba, chalking up Russia’s only shot on target for the game, and De Gea leaking his 10th goal of the 11 on target he has faced in the 2018 Cup.
The second half saw a whole lot of ball movement from the bulls, and by games end Spain had at least won the most passes by a team in World Cup history- 1114 to Russia’s 290. To overcome Spain’s on field tic-tac-toe, the crowd whipped out the Mexican wave, whilst Russia’s backline multiplied like a Babushka doll from 3 to 5, minimising the impact of Diego Costa in particular.
De Gea was mostly a spectator in the second half as Russia only managed one shot off target in the 93rd minute, however Spain could not breakdown Russia’s rigid and impenetrable shape. Despite a joint Iniesta and Aspas double effort in the 85th, nothing could separate the two nations at the end of regulation time.
Extra time saw history made again, with both teams able to make their 4th subs for some fresh legs following the FIFA rule change in March.
The 114th minute saw the start of the Russian interference conspiracies. Despite multiple collisions and what appeared to be manhandling of both Ramos and Piqué in the penalty area, VAR feigned a disinterested look before calling for play on. Was it Putin behind the VAR ‘puter screens?
The remainder of extra time saw the deadlock remain and another contest play out on the field- a wet t-shirt contest between the Russian squad as the rain began to fell (thank you white kits).
Russia stepped up for their first ever penalty shootout at a World Cup, extending De Gea’s lack of saves for the tournament. Koke’s 3rd spot penalty was saved in the bottom left corner, whilst the flailing ankle of Akinfeev mid dive saved Aspas’ 5th spot penalty. And boy did the stadium erupt at the expense of Spain’s pain.
In a game where an ankle went from villain to hero for Russia in putting Spain on a plane; Spain, it was just Nacho day. Adios Ramos and Vamos…to the airport.
By Hayley Leedham