Russia eliminate Spain from World Cup in last-16 penalty shootout

When the moment came, nerves taking hold of the Luzhniki Stadium, 144 million Russians and so many more across the globe looking upon him, Igor Akinfeev flew one way and the ball flew the other. But just as it appeared he might be beaten, somehow he, like his team, found a way to win. His left leg swung to kick Iago Aspas’s penalty clear and take the hosts through to the quarter-finals of the World Cup, a 1-1 draw giving way to a 4-3 victory on penalties that sent white shirts flooding across the field while in the stands they erupted, celebrating the most improbable success, perhaps the most significant they have ever had.

It had been said that they were the worst team in Russia’s history, but they are still here, in their tournament. It has been said that their opponents were the best team in Spain’s history, but no more. This was Andrés Iniesta’s final international game – the “saddest day of my career” he said – and others will follow the man who scored the winning goal in 2010, the last of their golden generation. Ultimately it had been a long, epic night, exhaustion and anxiety preparing an explosion. To resist is to win, as Juan Negrín famously declared. Russia had resisted, all right.

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