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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

World Cup 2018 Day 24 as it happened: Croatia set up semi-final with England

The remaining quarter-final matches take place on Saturday. First up is Sweden v England (6pm UAE) and then Russia v Croatia (10pm)

Luka Modric celebrates after scoring his penalty during the shootoutt. Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters
Luka Modric celebrates after scoring his penalty during the shootoutt. Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

12.50am: Croatia set up semi-final with England

Croatia set up a World Cup semi-final with England in the most dramatic of fashions, clinching a penalty shootout victory over hosts Russia.

Croatia, who cancelled out Denis Cheryshev's 31st minute goal through Andrej Kramarić's finish eight minutes later, looked to have won it in extra-time when Domagoj Vida scored in the 100th minute.

However, Mario Fernandes levelled for Russia with fine minutes remaining to force a penalty shootout.

Both sides were victorious on penalties in the previous round so something had to give, and it was Russia who were left heartbroken.

For Croatia, they are now one win away from a place in the final!

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9.55pm - Russia v Croatia almost on us

So we are now waiting to find out who the final semi-finalist at the World Cup will be.

Will it be Russia? The home nation who have exceeded all expectations by making it to the last eight despite being the worst ranked team in the tournament before the competition begun.

Or will it be Croatia? The side managed by former Al Ain manager Zlatko Dalic won Group D with three wins out of three, most notably hammering Argentina 3-0, and then beat Denmark on penalties in the last 16.

Awaiting the winner of the game in Sochi, which kicks off at 10pm UAE time, is England, who beat Sweden 2-0 earlier on Saturday.

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7.55pm - England are in the semi-finals

For the first time in 28 years, and only the third time in their history, England are in the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Headers from Harry Maguire and Dele Alli have given Gareth Southgate's men a 2-0 victory over Sweden in Samara.

Maguire nodded home from a corner in the first half, and Alli doubled the lead in the second half after goalkeeper Jordan Pickford had made an excellent save from Al Ain's Marcus Berg to maintain their advantage.

England will take on either Russia or Croatia in Moscow on Wednesday for a place in the final on July 15.

Russia and Croatia play at 10pm UAE time in Sochi.

5pm - England v Sweden teams announced

No changes from the England side that started the last-16 tie against Colombia...

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2pm - Southgate wants England to 'keep making history'

Harry Kane will seek to fire England into their first World Cup semi-final for 28 years when they face Sweden on Saturday after Brazil were dumped out in the last eight by Belgium.

Gareth Southgate's young side face the Scandinavians in Samara with a place in the last four against either Croatia or hosts Russia up for grabs.

In the other half of the draw, Belgium's 2-1 win against Brazil set up a meeting with France in Saint Petersburg next week after Didier Deschamps's side saw off two-time winners Uruguay 2-0.

With the exits of Brazil and Uruguay, there are no multiple winners left in the competition, while it is the first time in history that none of Brazil, Germany or Argentina have made the semi-finals.

That leaves perhaps the most wide-open World Cup of modern times heading towards the final week, and England manager Southgate has called on his team to take advantage.

"We came into this tournament as the least experienced team - we were one of the youngest teams in it," he said. "But we said that we're an improving side who want to make our own history."

The 1966 champions edged out Colombia in the last 16 with their first-ever World Cup penalty shoot-out win after three previous defeats, securing a first knockout-round victory at a major tournament since beating Ecuador in 2006.

"We've already had our first knockout win in 12 years, our first win in a penalty shoot-out in a World Cup for England, the highest number of goals scored in an individual game [6-1 against Panama]," added former defender Southgate.

"We want to keep making that history."

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1.38pm - The UAE connection

UAE football fans will have more than a passing interest in today's two quarter-finals.

Al Ain, the country's most decorated club, have representation in both games: Marcus Berg will lead Sweden's attack against England in Samara while Zlatko Dalic, the Garden City club's former manager, takes charge of Croatia in their last-eight encounter against hosts Russia.

Our man in Russia John McAuley is in Sochi ahead of Croatia's match, and you can read his exclusive interview with Dalic here.

Berg, whose goals led Al Ain to a historic league-and-cup double for the first time in the club's history in 2017/18, has yet to register a goal in 13 attempts in Russia thus far.

Can he break his duck against England?

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1pm - Burj Khalifa becomes world's highest World Cup scoreboard

As if the World Cup hasn’t been prominent enough already this summer, for people in Dubai it remains – quite literally – unmissable.

The world’s highest football scoreboard, made up of 1.1 million LED pixels, has been installed on the facade of the Burj Khalifa building right in the heart of Downtown Dubai. And it will be in action again from Friday as the quarter-finals matches kick off.

WATCH

A post shared by Burj Khalifa (@burjkhalifa) on

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Russia midfielder Denis Cheryshev during training ahead of the World Cup quarter-final against Croatia in Sochi. Reuters
Russia midfielder Denis Cheryshev during training ahead of the World Cup quarter-final against Croatia in Sochi. Reuters

11.25am - Good morning

With two of our semi-finalists confirmed, it's time to see who from Russia, Croatia, Sweden and England will join France and Belgium in the last four of the 2018 World Cup.

Asked if Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final against Croatia was his team’s games of their lives, Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov simply shrugged.

“I hope that the most important games are still ahead of us,” he responded in front of a pack press conference in Sochi on Friday. “Is this a good answer? You asked me and, well, we say that ‘brevity is the sister of genius’, as Anton Chekhov said.”

As far as press conferences go, it was a pretty decent start.

Croatia topped a group containing Argentina, although they did need penalties themselves on Sunday to see off Denmark in the last 16.

Zlatko Dalic’s side are blessed with Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic, who represent Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus. In contrast, two of Russia’s 23-man squad play their club football outside the home country.

“We know every one of their players because they play in the top leagues in the top clubs and we are preparing ourselves for a very serious match,” Cherchesov said. “I will not focus on one player in the Croatian team."

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Read more:

WATCH: Brazil sad, but Neymar brightens up one fan's day

Gary Meenaghan: Players and pundits back Tite to remain in charge of Brazil despite World Cup exit

John McAuley: Brazil manager Tite 'very grateful' for spells in UAE football

Gary Meenaghan: Tite tasked with keeping Brazil 'mentally strong'

Brazil and Neymar's World Cup dreams shattered by Belgium

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Zlatko Dalic interview: I'm living my dream with Croatia

If you haven't already seen it, John McAuley's interview with Zlatko Dalic, manager of Croatia, is well worth a read.

The former Al Ain manager says “I’m living my dream” as Croatia stand just two wins away from a dream World Cup final, although they must first overcome hosts Russia in Sochi in their quarter-final match.

Indeed Dalic and Croatia have created a few memorable moments already this tournament.

Croatia emerged fro, Group D unscathed and with arguably the result of the group phase as they put Lionel Messi's Argentina to the sword 3-0.

"We were fantastic," Dalic says. “That made me very proud.”

Check out the rest of the interview here.

Zlatko Dalic is enjoying life as Croatia manager as his side prepares for their World Cup quarter-final on Saturday with Russia. Ronald Wittek / EPA
Zlatko Dalic is enjoying life as Croatia manager as his side prepares for their World Cup quarter-final on Saturday with Russia. Ronald Wittek / EPA

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Read more:

John McAuley: Ivan Rakitic pays tribute to Luka Modric's role in Croatia's success

Stanislav Cherchesov determined to keep Russia looking forward at the World Cup

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Brazil sad, but Neymar brightens up one fan's day

Brazil's dejected squad returned to their Kazan hotel in daylight on Saturday after suffering a nightmare 2-1 World Cup exit at the hands of Belgium.

Belgium booked their place in the semi-final against France with a Fernandinho own goal and brilliant Kevin de Bruyne strike, Brazil replying through Renato Augusto's fine headed goal.

Brazil fought desperately for an equaliser but the Belgian defence held firm to send the tournament's final South American side packing, after Uruguay were earlier beaten 2-0 by France.

However talismanic forward Neymar brightened up one young Brazil fan's day by autographing his ball.

WATCH

Meanwhile Brazil striker Gabriel Jesus has backed Tite to remain in charge despite the team's disappointing exit at the last-eight stage.

Once tipped as the tournament top-scorer, Jesus leaves Russia without a single goal, yet he is unequivocal in his assessment of his managerh.

“Man, if you take Tite’s record: 26 games now, two defeats, four draws and 20 victories,” the Manchester City striker added. “All of us Brazilians know the importance of Tite and the evolution he has made with us in terms of our football.

"My opinion is Tite is today the coach that has to remain with the Seleção.”

Read the article in full here.

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INTERACTIVE: World Cup wall chart

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Extra Time podcast

In this Extra Time podcast, Steve Luckings and Jon Turner preview the two remaining quarter-final match-ups and predict which nations will reach the final four.

LISTEN

Subscribe to Extra Time for free on Apple Podcasts.

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Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist speaks to the media ahead of the World Cup quarter-final against England. Reuters
Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist speaks to the media ahead of the World Cup quarter-final against England. Reuters

Granqvist happy to miss birth of daughter if it means beating England

Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist is happy to delay meeting his newborn daughter if it means extending his World Cup dream at England's expense.

Granqvist's wife Sophie gave birth to the couple's second daughter, Mika, overnight on Friday while the veteran defender continued preparations for his side's quarter-final in Samara.

England midfielder Fabian Delph missed the last-16 victory against Colombia to be there for the arrival of his third child but Granqvist was under instruction from Sophie not to leave his teammates.

"It was good timing. I didn't sleep very much last night, so I'm glad that it's happened now," the 33 year old told a pre-match press conference.