Russian Federation boss 'persuaded' team to switch up for Spain

Stanislav Cherchesov | Russia

Spain head coach Fernando Hierro comforts Spain's Koke after his team lost by penalty shootout during the round of 16 match between Spain and Russia at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 1, 2018. Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion and Iago Aspas eventually missed their shots and Russian Federation prevailed.

Once Spain took the lead in the 11th minute, however, Sergei Ignashevich turning a Marco Asensio free-kick into his own net under heavy pressure from Sergio Ramos, it was hard to see a way back into the game for the hosts.

Spain, buoyed by their breakthrough, were beginning to dominate possession with Russian Federation struggling to find a foothold, but the hosts were briefly boosted when an Dzyuba header from a long free kick caused confusion before Spain whacked it clear.

Despite a centre-back pairing of Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique, Spain have conceded five goals in three games with goalkeeper David de Gea looking a shadow of his usual self.

Russian Federation hit back just before the interval as Artem Dzyuba nervelessly converted a penalty awarded for a handball by Gerard Pique.

In that game, Russia's Alexander Yerokhin became the first player to be brought on as a fourth substitute during a World Cup match, going on in the 97th minute against Spain.

The home crowd greeted the arrival of extra time as if they had won the World Cup but Spain, seeing several of their rivals dropping to the floor with cramp and exhaustion, were no doubt confident that the hosts would eventually crack if they just kept rolling the ball from side to side.

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But for all the talk of tactics and generational change, Spain's 2018 World Cup will be remembered for a simple act of self-sabotage.

They will play either Croatia and Denmark in the quarter-finals in Sochi on Saturday. Artem Dzyuba stepped up and equalised from the spot, 1-1.

The Spanish stopper is clearly not accustomed to criticism since recovering admirably from a shaky start to life at United but supporters tore into his distribution during Spain's final World Cup game. He knows instantly he's gone the wrong way and is just hoping to get something on it, and he did. "The fact that the game will be at Luzhniki Stadium with nearly 80,000 people supporting us is probably the only good effect from the fact we finished second in our group", said Ignashevich.

Vladimir Granat (for Zhirkov 45) - 6 - Played an effective role as Russian Federation held firm in the second-half.

Here, AFP Sports looks at 3 things we learned today at the World Cup.

Spain was more urgent in extra time after being too passive for 90 minutes. It is a reality that is my last match with the national team - at an individual level a wonderful stage is over. While Russia arrived at the finals win-less in eight months before finding some badly-needed form, one of their better results in that period came in a 3-3 draw with Spain last November. "We feel like all Spaniards this evening", he said.

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