The favorites wilt away one by one – first Argentina, then Portugal, and now Spain. The 2010 winners were expected to face stiff competition from hosts Russia, but perhaps no one fully predicted that they would, in fact, be eliminated.
It all came down to a penalty shootout when the scoreline after ninety minutes and added time stood 1-1, courtesy of goals of Russian origin, one an own-goal from Sergei Ignashevich, the other a well-found penalty from Artem Dzyuba.
The shootout too, was quite interesting, as David De Gea, despite guessing almost all of the spots where the ball would go, simply didn’t have enough in him to stop them from powering behind.
Akinfeev, on the other hand, was instrumental throughout the match and was able to put in a quick foot to ensure Iago Aspas’ attempt was blocked and Russia’s World Cup dreams carried on.
The Spaniards were devastated, to say the least, and their feelings were aptly captured by captain Sergio Ramos’ remarks after the end of the game.
The Real Madrid defender had this to say, on the verge of tears: “Very hard. Whenever you are knocked out of a WC, it is very painful. The team did everything possible, to try and prove ourselves again. It was not to be. We could not do more – we gave everything.
“A penalty was the only way they could cause us danger, in extra-time we did everything, again, kept the ball. Penalties is a lottery – and we lost today, but I am very proud of these players as captain.”
He was quite hopeful about the future, however: “We have a team to keep dreaming. After all the criticism following group stages, we have proven ourselves as a team again today.
“We’ll be back at big tournaments again. Some players will come, others will go, but always proud to represent this national team.”
Is this the tournament of underdogs?