AP Photo / David Vincent

Akinfeev: Russia ‘not trying to hide’ playing for PKs

1 Comment

Igor Akinfeev’s nine-save performance over 120 minutes took the next step in penalty kicks.

[ RECAP: Spain 1-1 (3-4 PKs) Russia ]

The Russian goalkeeper 32 stopped Isco’s third attempt and then made a terrific leg save on Iago Aspas‘ final effort as Russia knocked Spain out of the World Cup.

Here’s what he said on FOX’s broadcast, through an interpreter:

“I’m exhausted because you saw that practically for the whole second half and 30 extra minutes, we just defended and tried to get them away from our goal. We weren’t trying to hide it.”

Akinfeev, Russia knock Spain out of World Cup

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader

Igor Akinfeev made an unbelievable stop on Iago Aspas to end a riveting round of penalty kicks as Russia eliminated Spain from the World Cup on Sunday.

A Russian own goal was equalized when Artem Dzyuba scored a 42nd minute penalty, but Spain could not break down Russia over 120 minutes.

Akinfeev, who struggled in the 2014 World Cup, made nine saves in regulation and stopped penalties from Isco and Aspas as David De Gea couldn’t get to any of Russia’s four finishes.

Russia will face the winner of Denmark or Croatia in the quarterfinal.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Spain went ahead on the own goal, as a Nacho-won free kick from the right bounded off the back of Sergei Ignashevich’s right calf during a tussle with Sergio Ramos in the 12th minute.

La Furia Roja wasn’t scared off by the slow start, and Aleksandr Golovin kept up a fine World Cup with a give-and-go that ended with a curling shot just wide of the far post.

Russia would get its chance to make it 1-1 when Dzyuba headed a corner back across goal and off the raised hand of Gerard Pique. He finished his chance.

The Russian crowd continued to get behind its men, who closed up shop in a bus-parking that would make Tony Pulis crowd. Andres Iniesta broke through the lines, but his pass was turned wide of the goal.

Not much shame in that, but the hosts could not find the clinical finishing required to get a goal in regulation.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

Spain continued its possession and control in the first period of stoppage time, with Marco Asensio forcing Igor Akinfeev into a save.

Akinfeev has had a redemptive tournament after a rough 2014 World Cup saw him spill a South Korean goal into his net, and he made several stops as the match moved toward penalty kicks.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Akinfeev stopped Isco on Spain’s third chance and made an unreal stop on Iago Aspas’ bid to force Russia to a fifth kick.

Spain coach Hierro backs de Gea

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Fernando Hierro has made it clear who he thinks will be starting in goal for La Furia Roja.

The interim Spanish National Team coach shut down rumors and whispers that he was considering a goalkeeper change for the knockout stage of the World Cup, saying in an interview on Spanish station RNE that David De Gea will start the next match against Russia. De Gea has made some uncharacteristic errors during the tournament, including on Cristiano Ronaldo’s second goal in Spain’s wild 3-3 draw with Portugal in the opening match of Group B.

[ MORE: 2018 World Cup Best XI (so far)]

“Yes, he will play,” Hierro said, referring to De Gea.

De Gea also allowed two goals to Morocco, which saw Spain rescue a point in second half stoppage time thanks to Iago Aspas.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The 27-year-old de Gea has been in sparkling form in the past for both Spain and Manchester United, but there were whispers after his performance in the group stage that he could have been replaced by Kepa Arrizabalaga or Pepe Reina.

Now, it seems that Hierro trusts in de Gea, which could bode well for the future for both Spain and Man United.

Spain draw Morocco, win Group B in dizzying final five minutes

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Spain survived a near-disaster scenario, which could have seen them eliminated from the 2018 World Cup (pending result elsewhere), but still struggled en route to a 2-2 draw with Morocco in Kaliningrad, Russia, on Monday.

From start to finish, it was a muddled mess of a performance for Fernando Hierro’s side. And yet, rather than facing Uruguay, who clinched Group A with a 3-0 victory over Russia earlier in the day, Fernando Hierro’s side finishes top of Group B (based on goals scored) and will face the hosts in the round of 16. More importantly, they’ll (likely) avoid the likes of Brazil, France and Germany in their half of the knockout bracket.

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

Khalid Boutaib, Isco, Youssef En-Nesyri and Iago Aspas scored the goals, in that order, as Spain scraped their way to a 1W-2D-0L record in the group stage.

The scoring opened in perhaps the most unlikely way imaginable: a giveaway by Andres Iniesta, though plenty of blame could be given to Sergio Ramos as well, and an easy breakaway for Boutaib, who raced in on goal and slid the ball between David De Gea‘s legs to make it 1-0 (WATCH HERE).

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Morocco’s lead didn’t last long, though, as Iniesta atoned for his earlier error, with a little help of some silky operators wearing red. A quick passing sequence down the left side of the penalty area freed Iniesta to play the simple, but perfectly timed, ball to Isco for a close-range finish. (WATCH HERE)

 Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

The second half’s first great scoring chance came in the 55th minute, and it nearly put Spain behind again. Nordin Amrabat unleashed a powerful, right-footed strike from the corner of the penalty area, leaving De Gea completely helpless in goal, but the Watford man was denied by the 90-degree angle where the crossbar meets post. Another wake-up call for the 2010 World Cup winners, but a massive let-off in the end.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

En-Nesyri headed home the would-be winner from Faycal Fajr’s corner kick in the 81st minute, seconds after Gerard Pique was perhaps suspected of having committed a handball offense inside the penalty area.

It wasn’t the last bit of drama, though, as Aspas flicked home the equalizer in the 90th minute. He was initially ruled offside by the assistant referee, but a video review indicated he was perfectly level when the ball was crossed into the box.

Int’l friendlies: Spain top Tunisia; Mexico beaten by Denmark

Lars Moeller/Ritzau Scanpix via AP
Leave a comment

The 2018 World Cup is five days away, which means we’re oh so close to no more international friendlies…

[ MORE: USMNT, France draw 1-1 | Player ratings | Three things ]

Tunisia 0-1 Spain

Spain remained unbeaten in 20 matches under new coach Julen Lopetegui, but they needed an 85th-minute goal from 76th-minute substitute Iago Aspas to pull off the victory over Tunisia on Saturday.

Sergio Busquets began the move that unlocked a stubborn, sturdy Tunisian defense by finding Diego Costa, a sub himself on the hour mark, in space behind the backline. Costa took on multiple defenders and the goalkeeper before cutting it back to a late-arriving Aspas near the top of the box. The Celta Vigo man fired it low and hard toward the far post, beating Balbouli for the game’s only goal.

Up next: Spain vs. Portugal (Friday, 2 p.m. ET); Tunisia vs. England (Monday, 2 p.m. ET)

Denmark 2-0 Mexico

Christian Eriksen had himself a game, scoring one and assisting the other, as Denmark topped Mexico in a battle of World Cup-bound sides. Tottenham Hotspur’s prolific Dane found Yussuf Poulsen for the opening goal in the 71st minute, and found the back of the net himself just three minutes later.

Up next: Denmark vs. Peru (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET); Mexico vs. Germany (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET)


A young U.S. men’s national team took on one of the favorites to lift the World Cup trophy next month, and played Les Bleus to a 1-1 in Lyon. Julian Green took the USMNT’s only shot of the first half game and scored his first senior goal in two years just before halftime, but Kylian Mbappe save Didier Deschamps’ side a bit of embarrassment with a late equalizer.

Up next: France vs. Australia (Saturday, 6 a.m. ET); USA vs. Brazil… in September

Elsewhere in int’l friendlies

Serbia 5-1 Bolivia
Hungary 1-2 Australia
Estonia 1-3 Morocco
Sweden 0-0 Peru