AAP Soccer

Spain exit clears path for fresh finalist

By AAP Newswire

Spain's dramatic defeat by Russia on penalties in the World Cup round of 16 ensured that at least one of this year's finalists will not have reached the title decider for half a century, if at all.

Russia reached the quarter-finals with a 4-3 shootout win over Spain, with the game locked at 1-1 after 90 minutes and 120 minutes.

England, who played their one final when they won the title in 1966, and Sweden, who lost to Brazil on home soil in the 1958 final, are still in the half of the draw vacated by the 2010 champions after their loss to the hosts.

The odds on England winning the World Cup for a second time were cut after Russia's victory, making them third favourites behind France and Brazil.

Croatia's victory over Denmark, in another penalty shootout later on Sunday, kept them alive and they joined England as the most likely winners from the 'weaker' side of the draw.

The Croatians were less than impressive in Nizhny Novgorod than in their earlier group matches but managed to account for the Danes 3-2 on penalties after the scores were level at 1-1

However, they will be fancied to match their best previous showing of a semi-finals spot in 1998 when they meet Russia in Saturday's quarter-final in Sochi.

The Russians will be hoping to continue to benefit from the hosts' dividend to better the single semi-final appearance that the Soviet Union achieved in 1966.

Switzerland, who have never done better than the spot in the last eight they achieved as hosts in 1954, take on Sweden on Tuesday in Saint Petersburg with the winners going on to face England or Colombia.

The South Americans, whose best finish was their run to the quarter-finals in Brazil four years ago, take on the English in the last round-of-16 match later the same night in Moscow.

The last addition to the elite group of 12 nations who have contested World Cup finals was Spain when they won the title for the first time in 2010.

France, the 1998 winners, beat Argentina to reach the quarter-finals on Saturday and are in the other half of the draw with fellow former champions Brazil and Uruguay, the three nations having competed in 11 finals between them.