Spain (3) 1-1 (4) Russia (AET) Hosts stun the world to reach quarter-finals
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Spain (3) 1-1 (4) Russia (AET) Hosts stun the world to reach quarter-finals

Russia reached their first quarter-final since 1970 after beating Spain 4-3 on penalties to defy the odds and eliminate the 2010 world champions from the competition.

Joshua Kerr

Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev saved two spot-kicks as hosts Russia stunned the world to beat Spain 4-3 on penalties to reach the quarter-finals of the competition. 

Akinfeev denied both Koke and Iago Aspas to send a Russian nation into jubilation as La Rojo- who were unbeaten in their last 23 games - hopes of retaking their former crown were shattered in the most embarrassing fashion as the 2010 world champions were eliminated by the competitions lowest-ranked side.

Spain took the lead after an own-goal from defender Sergei Ignashevich gifted the visitors the lead. However, a bizarre Gerard Pique gifted penalty allowed Artem Dzyuba to drag the hosts back into this cagey affair before the most extraordinary scenes took Russia through to a quarter-final birth against either Croatia or Denmark.

The hosts are ranked 70th in the FIFA World Rankings and suddenly Stanislav Cherchesov's side are potentially three games from winning the tournament.

Bizare own goal gives La Rojo early lead

On the day in which Andres Iniesta was sidelined, it was the dawn of a new Spanish hero as Marco Asensio stood up superbly to rise the challenge in front of him. 

A painful clash between former Chelsea left-back Yuri Zhirkov and Real Madrid right-back Nacho left the Galactico full-back on the receiving end of a nasty clash with the 34-year-old full-back.

Asensio stepped up to take the free-kick on the far right-hand side of the box. The 22-year-old wonderkid put in a marksman like delivery into the penalty area and suddenly Russia were in trouble.

The ball eluded the entire Russia defence flying other at least nine Russian bodies before Spanish captain Sergio Ramos looked to pounce. 

What looked to be an initial penalty was suddenly a goal, as Ramos was wrestled to the ground by Ignashevich in what seemed a blatant penalty. A rugby-tackle like attempt to stop the four-time Champions League winner suddenly backfired as the ball struck the Russian defender's ankle before going in and giving La Roja the early lead.

Pique blunder gifts hosts penalty

Spain dominated possession for the majority of the first half with Isco and David Silva being given acres of time and space on the ball as it began to look like a training game with little pressure from the hosts to cause an upset. 

A couple of Russian chances fell from sloppy ball retention from Spain and a chance fell to Aleksandr Golovin on the left. The 22-year-old midfielder looked to find space before cutting inside and firing a curling right-footed shot just shy of the post.

The 2010 World Cup champions seemed to be in complete control with half-time approaching, and it wasn't until a sheer moment of madness that the game was suddenly spun on its head.

It's fair to say VAR has been needed on more than one occasion of uncertainty towards controversial penalty decisions in this summers tournament.

However, it was not needed in this incident as experienced Barcelona defender Pique was the man responsible for arguably the most stonewall penalty of the tournament.

A corner came in and the ball flew over the defender's head before it was headed back into the box, Pique's trailing arm was left naively in the air before striking the number 3's arm giving referee Björn Kuipers no option but to point to the spot.

Dzyuba stepped up to take the spot kick with the weight of a nation rested on his shoulders. The 6ft 5in forward coolly fired into the bottom right corner to send David de Gea the wrong way and equalise for the hosts.

His celebration emulated the coolness of his penalty as Dyzuba ran to his screaming nation before saluting to his fans in emphatic fashion. Suddenly this game was back alive and the roar of the stadium certainly told you that Russia were not yet finished in this game.

Frustrating second half contrasted with disciplined Russian defence

Spain started the second half brightly with possession stats being firmly dominated by Fernando Hierro's side and a teasing ball from Nacho on the right-hand side met the head of Silva but the Manchester City midfielder failed to gather a good connection and the ball flew wide.

A 20-minute period was dominated by Spanish passing with little opportunities coming from either side. Spain were failing to succumb to any real chances and boos were quickly starting to surround the stadium.

The visiting support began to become frustrated and the atmosphere became more and more toxic as the Russian defence was organised in a military-like fashion cancelling any sort of Spanish threat. Russia began to show signs of attacking on the counter but the hosts failed to get bodies forward.

The man who had all the attention on him before the game had the best chance of the second half. Iniesta received a pass brought down by his chest after a clever ball from Isco, his shot was hit low into the bottom left corner but Akinfeev got down superbly to deny the World Cup veteran from snatching a late winner.

There was to be no dramatic finish for the 2008 and 2012 Euro winners as Russia managed to frustrate the clear favourites in this fixture to a 1-1 stalemate as extra-time and penalties became a possibility for the first time this tournament. 

White-wall of Russia holds firm to take former World Champions to penalties

The opening 15 minute half of extra-time was almost as agonizing for Spain as the initial 90 minutes as the white defensive wall of Russia once again failed to yield. 

Isco and Iniesta were constantly linking up with intricate one-touch passing but once again bags of possession resulted in little attempts on goal, an Asensio shot was the only real effort worth noting in the initial 15-minute half. 

The second period in an instance was more lively than the first as the substitute and former Bolton Wanderers star Rodrigo took matters into his own hands. The first Spain player to run directly at the Russian defence and suddenly chaos erupted.

The Spanish winger eluded two Russian defenders before launching a teasing shot towards the Russian goal, however, Akinfeev was there once again to stop the shot and save his side.

Another dramatic penalty shout followed in the second period of extra-time as a Spain free-kick was lofted into the box before both Pique and Ramos went down appealing for penalties. Both defenders had a case of being held but once again referee Kuipers held firm to deny the spot-kick.

The noise surrounding the stadium reached earth-shattering levels as the former world champions were incredibly held by the host nation in the most extraordinary performance as suddenly the lowest ranked side in the competition were a penalty shoot-out away from the quarter-finals. 

Akinfeev the hero as Russians stun the world

Iniesta stepped up for the first spot-kick in potentially his last ever game for La Rojo and the Spanish magician converted in convincing fashion to gift Spain the lead. 

Fedor Smolov leveled the scoring before Pique regained the lead. The man who gifted Spain their opening goal stepped up for Russia as Ignashevich fired home to make it 2-2. 

A noise like no-other broke out of the Luzhniki Stadium as Koke's spot-kick was saved to put Russia in the driving seat. 

Golovin converted his spot-kick superbly to give the hosts the advantage as suddenly Russia had the edge on their opponents.

Ramos calmly levelled before Cheryshev's converted spot-kick meant suddenly Spain had to score to remain in the competition.

Iago Aspas was the man with the weight of the world on his shoulders as the former Liverpool flop was tasked with a penalty like no-other. The pressure proved too much for the Celta Vigo forward as keeper and man-of-the-match Akinfeev denied Aspas with his left ankle to send the hosts into pure ecstasy.

Akinfeev was mobbed by his players as arguably the moment of the tournament so far saw Russia defy the odds to reach their first World Cup quarter-final since 1970. Simply incredible!