Controversial selection, managerial changes and dumped out out of the World Cup by the lowest ranked team of the event.
One of the tournament favourites, Spain went against the hosts Russia in an exciting knockout clash. The match went through its full course as the hosts emerged surprise winners in penalties. The Russian defence proved too much for the La Roja to break as the former champions bow out of the tournament, which has been famous for its upsets till now.
1.The first match to reach extra time and penalties in this World Cup
The hosts put on one of the best defensive displays as they take down the former champions Spain. The La Roja could not break the rock-solid defence of Russia as the Sbornaya took the game to penalties and historically won it from there. In a game with hardly any thrill throughout the 120 minutes, the penalty shootout came up with a huge surprise as it saw one of the favourites to lift the cup bow out of the tournament in the Round of 16 itself.
2. Spanish missing the spark in their team
Looking at the Spanish midfield on paper, they were the best in business but repeated side way passings with lack of imagination and creativity to open up spaces in the final third costed them everything. Hierro missed a trick by not starting Iniesta but the veteran tried to put on a shift coming on in the second half but the La Roja had no answer to the resilient defence.
3. The Russians exceeded every expectation as they take down the might Spain
Coming to the tournament the Russians were placed in an unpredictable group with the likes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay. The Russians came second in their group and that only was a reason to celebrate for the host nation. But very few thought that their team will go on to beat mighty Spain.
The Sbornaya put up a great display, one for their history books. They defended with their lives and Igor Akinfeev who once had a torrid World Cup some years ago revamped his World Cup fortunes. The captain leading from the front as Akinfeev stopped Iago Aspas and Koke in the penalty shootout to hand Russia their historic win.
4. Igor Akinfeev and the Russian defence deserve all the credit
The early own goal from the veteran Sergei Ignaeshevich was the rare blemish from the Russian defence as they managed to hold out Spain for a mammoth 120 mins. The defensive duo of Kutepov and 38 year old Ignaeshevich were solid and didn’t allow Spain any space to work with. Captain Igor Akinfeev also helped them out at times with some great reflex saves. All in all Cherchesov and his men did put up a great defensive show and took the game deep from where they can again make the game even. Their resilience and hard work paid off as the match went to penalties and Akinfeev took charge from their as the hosts had the last laugh.
1.Last World Cup for a lot of Spanish players
Players like Iniesta, Pique and Ramos probably played their last World Cup match. Don Andres who’s heroics handed the La Roja the coveted trophy back in 2010 will be leaving the grand stage on such a low is the last thing he would have asked for, but that’s football. Barcelona defender, Gerard Pique who conceded the penalty for Russia, already declared that this will be his last international tournament. Along with them, there may be a few more who could hang their boots, players like David Silva, Sergio Busquets etc, who are on the wrong side of their thirties may also end their international campaign. So it will be an end of an era for the La Roja as they bow out of the tournament in this historic night in Russia.