NOTHING TO fear here for Gareth Southgate.
It’s Croatia next for England in Wednesday’s semi-final in Moscow after they came through this war of attrition on penalties.
But the Three Lions camp will have slept soundly after witnessing their opponents come through another slog after needing penalties to down Denmark too.
Their opponents were taken through a second successive extra 30 minutes in the heat. Luka Modric failing to shine.
Nothing much from Ivan Rakitic bar scoring the crucial final spot kick in the shoot out. Nothing to make you shudder. This was a real struggle.
Boys you have got one hell of a chance in the Luzhniki stadium against this lot.
The noise was absolutely deafening hear last night inside the Fisht Olympic Stadium despite the lack of action as the hosts bid to get to their first World Cup semi-final since 1966.
This was a team that was branded the worst to represent Russia in a generation.
They hadn’t won a game in seven in the build up to the tournament and were the lowest ranked team in the competition at 70th in the FIFA list.
They weren’t even supposed to win a game never mind get out their group.
They not only did that but toppled Spain in a penalty shoot-out in the last 16. Again they would be underdogs but it is amazing how a crowd can lift you.
South Korea’s aim in 2002 was to make sure they won at least one game and did not disgrace themselves.
They made it all the way to the semi-finals where they were narrowly defeated by Germany.
Russia have been carried along on the same wave to this match up on the shores of the Black Sea.
And it was they who took a shock lead with a brilliant goal on 31 minutes that rocked the nation.
Denis Cherychev played a neat one two with Artem Dzyuba then after controlling the ball with huis right foot he curled a shot from 25 yards into the top right hand corner with his left.
It was his fourth goal in five matches.
In the stands Croation President Kolinda Grabor-Kitarovic shook hands with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in congratulations.
On 39 minutes he would be returning the gesture as Croatia equalised.
Ivan Perisic set Mario Mandzukic free down the left and his cross was headed home by Andrej Kramaric.
On the hour Croatia came desperately close to taking the lead.
Full-back Ivan Strinic crossed from the left to the far post from where Kramaric hooked the ball back across goal.
Russia could not clear there lines and Perisic latched onto the loose shooting across Igor Akinfeev but off the inside of the post.
Russia had a great chance of their own on 72 minutes when Mario Fernandes crossed from the right and substitute Aleksandr Erokhin was afforded a free header which he sent over the bar from eight yards out.
In a game of so few chances it was a good one and both these sides headed into extra time again as they had in the round of 16.
More huddles, more shouts in the middle of the circle, more words to lift players to another level and one we went.
While we had longed for another 30 minutes of Belgium v Brazil the night before there was no real craving for more of this.
Players were tiring in the humid conditions, cramp was causing delays, water was being sought at every opportunity.
England would have been quite happy to see their next opponents going through it all.
Was another penalty shoot-out inevitable for these two? Not so.
In the 101st minute Luka Modric swung over a corner and Domagoj Vida got a header in which bounced past teammate Vedran Corluka and Russia’s Fedor Smolov and in.
Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov tried to raise his troops to produce one last miracle, had the magic dust had run out? No it hadn’t.
Five minutes from the end of extra time Alan Dzagoev swung over a free kick and Mario Fernandes steered a header into the far bottom corner.
It was penalties again but this time no fairy story for the hosts.
Fedor Smolov and Fernandes would miss for Russia as would Mateo Kovacic for Croatia.
Everyone else scored with Rakitic getting the crucial final one.
Credit: The Sun