MOSCOW — Stretching every part of his body out into a star shape and diving to his right, Igor Akinfeev flicked out his left foot and kicked the ball high away from danger.
Akinfeev’s foot kept Russia’s party going Sunday, ended the international career of one of Spain’s biggest stars and sealed the biggest upset of the tournament and one of the greatest in World Cup history.
Akinfeev saved two shots during the shootout, while all of his teammates scored to give Russia a 4-3 advantage after a draw that was dominated by Spain in every way but the 1-1 score. Russia — the lowest ranked team in the World Cup at No. 70 — is stunningly going to the quarterfinals to face Croatia on Saturday.
Millions of Russian fans, many of whom were mocking this team just a couple of weeks ago, are jumping loudly on the bandwagon.
“We’re hosting a fantastic tournament,” Akinfeev said. “I think our fans and foreign fans have recognized that we’re a country that can play football and organize big events.”
Akinfeev’s winning save against forward Iago Aspas made the national stadium in Moscow shake with the roar of around 70,000 Russians celebrating their team’s best World Cup run since it was the Soviet Union in 1966.
It gave Russia its greatest win for 10 years, since Akinfeev was in goal for an extra-time victory over the Netherlands in a European Championship quarterfinal. That run was ended days later by a Spain team beginning its era of dominance.
Spain has now failed to win a knockout game at three major tournaments since it won Euro 2012, its third straight major title after Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.
It was a shocking elimination for Spain, joining former champions Germany and Argentina. Still, World Cup history was on Russia’s side after its well-organized team survived two hours of barely having the ball.
It was too passive a performance by the Spanish, who were ranked 10th and among the pre-tournament favorites. Turmoil erupted two days before the opening game, when the federation fired the head coach.
“It’s painful, there’s nothing else we can say,” Spain captain Sergio Ramos said. “We left our soul in the pitch.”
Sunday’s defeat also ended Andres Iniesta’s Spain career.
The 34-year-old Barcelona midfielder came off the bench and almost won the game with an 85th-minute shot well saved by Akinfeev. Iniesta also scored the first spot-kick of the shootout.
Spain led in the 12th minute when Ramos helped force Russia’s Sergei Ignashevich into an own goal when his back was turned to the play. Ramos and Ignashevich got tangled up and the ball went in off of the Russian defender’s heel.
A defensive error let Russia level in the 41st, after Gerard Pique’s raised arm blocked a header by Artyom Dzyuba. Dzyuba’s penalty kick fooled goalkeeper David De Gea to dive the wrong way.
Croatia 1, Denmark 1 (Croatia advances 3-2 on PKs): Danijel Subasic saved three penalties to help Croatia reach the World Cup quarterfinals.
Ivan Rakitic scored the decisive penalty after Subasic had used his feet to stop an attempt from Nicolai Jorgensen.
Croatia captain Luka Modric, who also scored in the shootout, had a chance to put his team ahead late in injury time but his penalty was saved by Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Denmark took the lead in the first minute when defender Mathias Jorgensen scrambled in a shot that went in off Subasic’s left hand and then the left post. It was Denmark’s fastest ever World Cup goal.
Croatia equalized in the fourth minute with another untidy goal at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.
Henrik Dalsgaard’s clearance hit a teammate and fell for Croatia forward Mario Mandzukic to hook the ball in.
The teams stayed even for the next 116 minutes, including the 30 minutes of extra time.