Russia's World Cup dream ended within agonizing sight of the semi-finals as they went down 4-3 on penalties to Croatia on Saturday after another gallant performance in front of their fanatical fans which again belied their lowly ranking. "Thank God we have shown our character". The ball floated onto the head of Domagoj Vida, who pushed it through traffic to give Croatia a late lead. But he kept going and pulled off a series of saves in extra-time before reading Fyodor Smolov's intention of a cheeky Panenka penalty in the shoot-out.
Croatia then began to settle into possession, only to concede against the run of play in the 31st minute.
The hosts sent the clash into a shoot-out as Mario Fernandes equalised for Russian Federation five minutes before time by heading home a cross from Alan Dzagoev.
The Croats hadn't advanced to the semifinals at the World Cup since 1998, when the country made its first appearance. Assisted by Luka Modric with a cross following a corner.
Marcelo Brozovic clinically despatched his spot-kick before Dzagoev made it 1-1.
England fans trickling into Moscow for World Cup semifinals
Then (Vincent) Kompany and (Marouane) Fellani went and others thought let's sign more Belgium players and that has helped". Belgium finally showed on the pitch why so many rate them so highly and have tipped them to do well in this tournament.
After Akinfeev fluffed his punch in an attempt to clear a cross, Perisic struck the inside of the left post from eight yards out and watched the ball cannon past the opposite upright. But Fernandes followed with Russia's second miss of the shootout.
They have not had much luck previously, however, with a 2-1 defeat against France in the semifinals in 1998 being followed by a 3-1 loss to Brazil in the Opening Match of the 2014 edition.
Artem Dzyuba had a volley blocked by Dejan Lovren as Russian Federation looked to make an early mark on the game, and an Ante Rebic header and Rakitic free-kick looped over the bar at the other end.
Russian Federation made their final change in response, bringing on Alan Dzagoev for Aleksandr Golovin, and they almost had a chance when Subasic leapt for and fumbled a cross, but the whistle came to stop play and the goalkeeper again grabbed this thigh in pain.
Croatia will play England, who earlier beat Sweden 2-0 in Samara, at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Wednesday. Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren expects "a great encounter" as "we have four days to rest and prepare for the game".
Rare chances for Stanislav Cherchesov's team saw Dzyuba head tamely at Danijel Subasic from a 62nd-minute corner, before substitute Aleksandr Erokhin sent his header well over the bar from Fernandes' cross on the right 10 minutes later. "We have one day less for preparation".