NIZHNY NOVGOROD: Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic saved three penalties in the shootout to send Croatia through to a World Cup quarter-final with Russia after a dramatic win over Denmark in Nizhny Novgorod.
A crazy opening saw Mathias Jorgensen give Denmark a first-minute lead only for Mario Mandzukic to level for Croatia inside four minutes of play in Nizhny Novgorod.
Jorgensen’s goal came in an official 57 seconds, the fastest goal in the fnals since Clint Dempsey in 29 seconds for the United States against Ghana in 2014. The match was only the second in World Cup history to see both teams score inside four minutes, after Argentina v Nigeria in June 2014.
Croatia thus qualified for their first World Cup quarter-final since 1998 when they ultimately finished third in France.
Croatia dominated the first half but Denmark nulified them in the second half as the game went into extra time where, five minutes from the end, Luke Modric had a penalty saved by Kasper Schmeichel.
That took the game to a shootout where both Schmeichel and Subasic excelled in saving five penalties between them. Schmeichel denied Milan Badelj and Josip Pivaric while Subasic saved from Christian Eriksen, Lasse Schone and Nicolai Jorgensen.
That led to Ivan Rakitic stepping up to clinch a 3-2 shootout win to send Croatia through to the quarter-finals where they will face hosts Russia, who also came through on penalties to stun Spain.
The Danes have now lost two of their three shootouts at major tournaments, having also lost against Spain in the Euro 1984 semi-final. Their single success was against Holland in the Euro 1992 semi-finals.
This was only the second time in which two World Cup-ties both went to a penalty shootout on the same day: the only previous incidence was on June 21, 1986 when France beat Brazil and Germany beat Mexico.