‘We wanted penalties’

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Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev said Russia’s game plan had been to hold on for a penalty shootout after the host nation beat Spain on spot-kicks Sunday to reach the World Cup quarterfinals.

Spain dominated the last-16 match but after centre-back Sergei Ignashevich gifted them the opening goal on 12 minutes, Russia drew level when Artem Dzyuba converted a penalty awarded for a handball by Gerard Pique shortly before half-time.

Despite overwhelming Spanish possession, the 2010 winners were unable to break down the Russian defence even after extra-time.

Akinfeev saved Koke’s penalty to give Russia the advantage. After Denis Cheryshev converted his spot kick, Akinfeev stopped Iago Aspas’s effort with his legs to spark mass celebrations in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. “We were hoping for penalties,” Akinfeev said.

“We are having a fantastic World Cup. Not just our fans, but the fans of other countries are getting a sense of this atmosphere and understood that Russians really know how to play football and want to play football.”

Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov said: “We spent two years working on this and did a good job”.

No regrets or complaints, says Hierro

Spain coach Fernando Hierro said he had no regrets at taking the job two days before the World Cup despite his side’s second-round exit.

Hierro, composed and calm despite the loss, said that Spain did everything right but that “football is like that” after his side dominated the tie over 120 minutes only to go out on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

He also said that Spain should not change their possession-based style of play, even though it failed to break down a stubborn Russia defence. “Like all Spaniards, we had high hopes and dreams and we are sad that we couldn’t do it for the millions of people who were following the game back home,” he told reporters.

“This was just a question of football, of winning and losing. I can safely say that we can all look each other in the eye. The players have been extraordinary for their effort, their professionalism, their solidarity.

“There is a lot of pain in the delegation, the players, the coaching staff, the workers,” he said. “We had great hopes for this World Cup and it wasn’t to be. But I have no complaints against anybody.”

Hierro was rushed into the post after Julen Lopetegui was sacked for failing to tell his federation about his move to Real Madrid after the tournament, having already extended his contract to coach Spain.

“I’m not an opportunist,” said Hierro. “The situation was what it was… there is no sense in looking back. I put my head on the line to be coach two days before the Portugal match… I thought I had to do it and I accept the consequences.”

Source: Daily Star

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