MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s penalty shootout hero, goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, thanked God, luck and the Luzhniki Stadium crowd for bringing the hosts home safely against Spain on Sunday to reach their first World Cup quarter-final since 1970.
“In the second half, we were trying to defend. We were hoping for penalties and that’s what happened. Thank God,” he said after Russia won 4-3 on penalties when the match ended 1-1.
Akinfeev stopped kicks from Koke and Iago Aspas, while Russia’s marksmen scored all four penalties they took.
“Thank God, we were lucky, that’s it,” said the keeper, who like his counterpart at the other end, David de Gea, had had little to break sweat over for the preceding 120 minutes.
Rewarded with a sponsor’s trophy, Akinfeev acknowledged the part played by an 78,000 crowd in Moscow: “I’m not the man of the match, the man of the match is our team — and our fans.”
He added: “We’re having a fantastic World Cup.”
It was the fifth time in a row a World Cup host nation has won a penalty shootout, FIFA said.
It was also the ninth time that Spain have failed to beat a host of a World Cup or European Championships. They have lost eight of those games, including four at World Cups, the last to South Korea in 2002 — also on penalties.
Russia will face either Croatia or Denmark in the quarter-finals.
Reporting by Alastair Macdonald ; @macdonaldrtr; Editing by Christian Radnedge