Players of Croatia celebrate scoring during the 2018 FIFA World Cup round of 16 match between Croatia and Denmark in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, July 1, 2018. (Xinhua/Bai Xueqi)
NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Croatia advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals after beating Denmark 3-2 in a thrilling penalty shoot-out at the Luzhniki Stadium here on Sunday.
They will face hosts Russia looking to reach the semifinals for the first time 20 years after finishing third in the 1998 France World Cup.
Goalkeepers from both sides performed outstandingly, with Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic saving three penalties and Leceister City's Kasper Schmeichel stopping two watched by his father and former Denmark and Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel.
Ivan Rakitic ultimately scored the winning penalty and sent Croatia through after the two sides were deadlocked at 1-1 after 120 minutes.
Schmeichel, having been chosen as man of the match, said saving three penalties but losing the game gave him "a strange feeling and a huge disappointment".
"But I have enormous pride for the team, not only the 11 (players) on the pitch, but also everyone involved and worked for the team," the goalkeeper said.
Denmark went ahead in the first minute when Jonas Knudsen hurled a long pass from the right into the box. Mathias Jorgensen squeezed off a shot which was fumbled by Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic in off the base of the left post.
Just after three minutes, Croatia managed to level the score. Denmark failed to make a clearance of a cross from the right and Mario Mandzukic swept the ball into the net.
Paces slowed down in the second half. Although the Danish emerged from the break with more attacking intents, both sides haven't created good chances.
Any hopes that Denmark and Croatia could have taken the lead vanished within 90 minutes and the game headed to extra time.
Age Hareide, Denmark coach, told reporters after the game that his team played better during the regular time, epically second half.
"We had a good team. We had a fair chance to win against Croatia. We were able to stop Croatia from playing well," said the 64-year-old coach.
In the 113th minute, Luka Modric's through pass found Ante Rebic, who rounded off the outrushing Schmeichel only to be brought down inside the box by Mathias Jorgensen. The referee pointed straight to the spot.
However, Modric failed to capitalize on this great opportunity, as his right-foot shot was saved by the Denmark goalkeeper. A penalty shootout was needed to decide the winner.
Denmark forward Nicolai Jorgensen's shot was saved by Subasic while Rakitic scored in the final round.
Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic praised his goalkeeper as the "hero of the whole team" as he saved three penalties.
Despite missing the first penalty in the extra time, Modric stood again in front of the spot during the penalty shootout and didn't fail another time.
On Modric's performance, Dalic said that it was "fascinating" that the midfielder was determined and managed to score another penalty.
"Modric said himself that he was going to shoot the penalty. Can you imagine what would have happened if he had not scored? This showed the quality of a great player," Dalic said.
FIFA statistics showed that Croatia made 22 attempts at the goal throughout the match, while Denmark made 15. Ball possession was 54 percent for Croatia and 46 percent for Denmark.
A total of 40,851 spectators attended Sunday's match at the 45,000-seat Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.
Croatia will play Russia on July 7, as the hosts eliminated Spain on penalties earlier in Moscow.