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Hero Akinfeev says Russia were aiming for penalties

Igor Akinfeev was Russia’s hero in the penalty shootout, saving Iago Aspas’s spot-kick with his legs © AFP / Juan Mabromata

MOSCOW, Russian Federation, Jul 1Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev said Russia’s game plan had been to hold on for a penalty shootout after the host nation beat Spain on spot-kicks Sunday to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

Spain dominated the last-16 match but after centre-back Sergei Ignashevich gifted them the opening goal on 12 minutes, Russia drew level when Artem Dzyuba converted a penalty awarded for a handball by Gerard Pique shortly before half-time.

Despite overwhelming Spanish possession, the 2010 winners were unable to break down the Russian defence even after extra-time.

Akinfeev saved Koke’s penalty to give Russia the advantage. After Denis Cheryshev converted his spot kick, Akinfeev stopped Iago Aspas’s effort with his legs to spark mass celebrations in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

“We were hoping for penalties,” Akinfeev said.

“We are having a fantastic World Cup. Not just our fans, but the fans of other countries are getting a sense of this atmosphere and understood that Russians really know how to play football and want to play football.”

Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov said: “We spent two years working on this and did a good job”.

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