Igor Akinfeev

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

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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.

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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.

Aguero scores to down Russia in World Cup stadium reopening

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Sergio Aguero took it upon himself to reopen Luzhniki Stadium in style.

The Manchester City striker was lively all match, and he scored an 86th minute winner to seal a 1-0 friendly win over World Cup hosts Russia in Moscow.

Aguero was troublesome for Russia and goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev all match, forcing numerous saves including an expert volley in the first half. He finally got the winning goal with time winding down, seeing his first shot from around the penalty area blocked by Giorgi Jilka, but he headed in the rebound to break the ice.

Russia, meanwhile, was completely toothless. Argentina held 70% possession throughout the match, and put seven of their 20 attempts on net. The hosts managed just four total shots, one on target.

Argentina head coach Edgardo Bauza still refused to even experiment with Paulo Dybala on the field at the same time as Aguero and Lionel Messi, only bringing on the young Juventus star to replace Aguero once he had scored.

The match was the first in Moscow’s feature stadium that will host a semifinal and the 2018 World Cup final.

Mexico 2-1 Russia: Comeback seals semifinal place

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Mexico again produced a poor first half, but were saved in the final 45 minutes as Juan Carlos Osorio led the CONCACAF squad to the semifinals of the 2017 Confederations Cup.

Right off the bat, there was a controversial moment. Just five minutes into the game, Yuri Zhirkov burst into the Mexico box and went to ground under a challenge from Hector Moreno. The referee waved play on, but it appeared on replay that Moreno tripped Zhirkov. Nevertheless, no call was made and no word came from the video assistant referee.

[ RECAP: Portugal eases by New Zealand 4-0 ]

The hosts had another huge penalty shout, but the referee again waved play on as Fedor Smolov was sent flying to ground as Nestor Araujo contacted his leg from behind in the 17th minute. After about a minute of play, the VAR called for a review, but even after a look at the monitor, the referee decided there was not obvious reason to reverse the call.

With Russia applying all the pressure, they would find the breakthrough in the 25th minute. A pair of fantastic saves from Memo Ochoa went for naught as Alexandr Erokhin whiffed, but he was able to find Aleksandr Samedov who struck low past Ochoa for the opener.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

The lead wouldn’t last long. Mexico didn’t exactly seem sparked by the deficit, but they would draw back level against the run of play just past the half-hour mark. It appeared that Nestor Araujo’s looping header was meant to set up a teammate at the far post, but it ended up chipping Igor Akinfeev and tucking inside the woodwork for the equalizer.

After halftime, Mexico scored completely out of nowhere. A bombed clearance out of the back by Hector Herrera seemed an easy collect for Akinfeev, but as the ball bounced high up into the air, Hirving Lozano charged it down and headed the ball under feeble pressure from the Russian goalkeeper. The ball bounced unchallenged into the net, and Mexico took a shock 2-1 lead.

Mexico appeared to have a third to pad the lead, but VAR took 34 seconds to correctly reverse the call as replay spotted goalscorer Hector Moreno in an offside position on the delivery. Russia was doomed to defeat when Zhirkov was given a second yellow card for a clear elbow to the face of Miguel Layun. Somehow, the hosts still had one big chance in the 72nd minute despite the disadvantage, but Igor Smolinkov somehow missed the net on what should have been a tap-in.

The win for Mexico sees them into the knockout stage, but they fail to win the group, finishing level with Portugal on 7 points but coming up short on goal differential by one. Mexico will be without Andres Guardado in the semifinals, as he was shown his second yellow card of the tournament in the first half.

Akinfeev fully recovered from flare incident, likely to play vs Zenit this weekend

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Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev has thankfully avoided any serious injury when he was hit in the head with a flare on Friday in his country’s Euro 2016 qualification match against Montenegro.

Things were scary at the time as the 28-year-old goalkeeper was placed on a stretcher and rushed to the hospital, but according to the Associated Press he was treated for just burns and a concussion. He was knocked unconscious by the initial blow, but UEFA doctor Slobo Mandic who accompanied Akinfeev to the hospital said “I hope he will be fine” and told reporters he put Akinfeev in a neck brace as a precaution, as is consistent with most neck injuries major or minor.

Following the incident, the match initially resumed after a 35-minute delay, but the match was abandoned with a 0-0 score in the second half when more fan violence broke out. UEFA has not yet ruled what the technical outcome of the game will be, with Group G standings currently appearing as if the match never occurred, but the Russian federation wants the three points. A precedent was set earlier in this qualification round after an altercation between Serbia and Albania, with Serbia awarded a technical win (3-0 in the books) but then docked the three points for fighting, resulting in lost points for both sides.

Akinfeev plays for Russian Premier League side CSKA Moscow, who won the league title last season and currently sit in second place this year, five points back of Zenit St. Petersburg. CSKA coach Viktor Onopko told Russian media that Akinfeev would likely be back in training today and was on track to play Sunday in the league.

The news that Akinfeev could be back this weekend is a massive boost, considering CSKA travels to play Zenit in a match that could make or break their title chances. Falling behind by eight points with 10 games to play would be a tall order to overcome.

Igor himself said he was alright, saying, “I want to say thank you to everyone who’s been worrying about me. I feel fine.” The Montenegran FA president said he was concerned, saying, “We have left the impression of barbarians and this is a complete disaster. As far as I’m concerned the game should not have continued after the first-minute incident. We can only thank God that no one was seriously hurt.”