Croatia will play hosts Russia in the quarter-finals of the World Cup after a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Denmark.
Overall, the game was a fairly dull encounter book-ended by high drama.
The Danes took the lead after just 57 seconds via Huddersfield’s Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen, who scored from close range but only after some dodgy goalkeeping from Danijel Subasic.
However, just three minutes later, Croatia were level courtesy of a lucky goal from Mario Mandzukic, who forced the ball home after two Danish defenders made a calamitous hash of clearing their lines in the six-yard box…
Following that eventful opening five minutes of fury, the game quickly descended into an tight, tense and uninspiring affair.
4 – Croatia v Denmark is only the second match in World Cup history to see both teams score inside four minutes, after Argentina v Nigeria in June 2014. Quickfire. #CRODEN #CRO #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/j2gsNmnSjZ
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 1, 2018
Still 1-1 at full-time, the game ambled into extra-time with Denmark substitute Pione Sisto going close.
Then, at the very death, Croatia had a gilt-edged chance to win the game outright when Jorgensen fouled winger Ante Rebic in the box.
Luka Modric stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick only to see it saved by Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel.
The 120 minutes would end with the score still locked at 1-1, and the resulting penalty shoot-out would itself see as many misses as goals.
Christian Eriksen, who saw a cross hit the bar early in the game, had his penalty saved by Subasic.
Croatian sub Milan Badelj followed suit with another saved effort, before defender Simon Kjaer converted his penalty by thumping it into the top corner.
Subs Andrej Kramaric and Michael Krohn-Dehli then scored their spot-kicks to make it 2-1 to the Danes.
Modric, guilty of that dramatic extra-time penalty failure, showed guts to step and take another in the shoot-out, this time firing down the centre of the goal.
Misses would then follow from Lasse Schöne, Josip Pivaric and Nicolai Jørgensen as the tension mounted and the nerves kicked in.
With the shoot-out score at 2-2, it was left to Ivan Rakitic to win the game for Croatia and the Barcelona midfielder did just that, firing into the bottom left corner.
Here’s the full shoot-out…
That dramatic win sees Croatia face hosts Russia in the quarters, with Zlatko Dalic’s side in need of major improvement after their overall poor display against Denmark.
As for the Danes, they head home after a decent campaign that ultimately ended in cruel spot-kick heartbreak.