Nizhny Novgorod (Russia): Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic entered the World Cup record book in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday, becoming only the second man in the history of the tournament to save three penalties in a shootout.
Subasic stopped Denmark's Christian Eriksen, Lasse Schone, and Nicolai Jorgensen in the round of penalty kicks after the teams ended 120 minutes deadlocked at 1-1.
Danish keeper Kasper Schmeichel was likewise impressive, but stopped just two of the five Croatia shooters, allowing the Balkan side to win the match and advance to the quarterfinals.
With his performance, Subasic equaled the feat of Portugal keeper Ricardo Pereira, who thwarted England's Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and Jamie Carragher in a shootout to decide a quarterfinal clash in the 2006 World Cup.
Croatia's Luka Modric must have felt joy tinged with relief here Sunday when his side bested Denmark on penalties after he failed to convert from the spot in extra time in the battle for the 2018 World Cup quarterfinals.
Stymied by Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel in the dying minutes of the second extra period, the Real Madrid midfielder made no mistake on his second effort.
While Schmeichel continued to impress in the shootout, Croatian counterpart Danijel Subasic went him one better, saving three shots to the Dane's two. History weighed on both teams ahead of Sunday's round of 16 contest in Nizhny Novgorod.
The Croatians hoped to at least equal the achievement of the country's 1998 squad, which finished third at the 1998 World Cup in France. For Denmark, the bar was also set by their 1998 side, who reached the quarterfinals in France.
But the Croatians, especially the 33-year-old Modric, seemed to feel the pressure more and they conceded just two minutes into the match. Jonas Knudsen's throw-in reached Mathias Jorgensen in the box and his shot found the back of Subasic's net after careening off a pair of Croatian players.
Two minutes later, however, the sides were level at 1-1 thanks to a Mario Mandzukic strike from inside the box. Then began the real match, as the promise of the exciting start gave way to a grinding duel that saw the Danes largely neutralize Croatia's skill players.
Yet the Danish approach also left their own best player, Christian Eriksen, marginalized for long stretches. The torpor continued into the second half and both squads seemed more interested in conserving energy than attacking as they contemplated extra time.
But with the clocking ticking down on the second extra period, Modric threaded a great ball to Ante Rabic bearing down on Schmeichel and Jorgensen resorted to a foul to stop the attacker. The referee awarded the penalty and Modric stepped to the spot. The Danish keeper - with proud dad and predecessor Peter Schmeichel watching from the stands - denied Modric and the match went to a shootout.
In the end, three Danish players failed to convert, including Eriksen, to deliver the victory to Croatia, who will face host nation Russia in the quarterfinals.