World Cup fairy tale ends for Russian Federation, the sleeping giant

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Mandzukic's wish in all likelihood became reality, with fans celebrating long into the night after Croatia knocked out Russian Federation on penalties to reach only their second World Cup semifinal in their history.

Belgium faced a heart-stopping moment of uncertainty in the first knockout round against Japan, when Martinez's decision to rest players in their final group match against England nearly backfired spectacularly.

The game was also the first clean sheet the English have kept in this World Cup and their first in a World Cup knockout stage since 2006, when they beat Ecuador 1-0.

England were Sunday looking forward to their first World Cup semi-final since 1990 as Russian fans thanked their disappointed players after their fairytale World Cup run was halted by Croatia.

Defender Mario Fernandes, who had brought his side level through a header in the 115th minute, missed what proved to be the decisive spot-kick, with Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic making no mistake to send his team into the semi-finals.

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"I would say the chances in the game are 50/50 because everyone deserves to be the in semi-final. We have played two matches of 120 minutes of football in six days, and of course this will leave a mark on you but. we have shown our character".

Croatia will now lock horns with England for a place in the World Cup final in Moscow on Wednesday. "I don't cry very often, but I have good cause now", he said.

OPENING SALVO Russia had delivered the flawless opening salvo, firing five goals past the Saudis in the World Cup opening match that instantly gave the home crowd a reason to turn their attention to football. "He is one of the best in the world right now".

"We do not want to stop. We will enjoy this game and hopefully we can make history".

"Speaking at a news conference, Dier said: "[They are] two fantastic players, world-class players in their position. Numerous Croatia players said arriving in Sochi immediately after the round of 16 win over Denmark was a major benefit, but now are facing a rapid recovery. "It's going to be a man's match and we will have to step up". "We've shown all members of our team are risky, so I believe someone will find a way to surprise him".

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