Published: Mon, July 02, 2018
Culture | By Jeremy Gray

Iniesta retires from Spain after World Cup loss to Russian Federation

Iniesta retires from Spain after World Cup loss to Russian Federation

"I'm proud of them as captain because we put our souls into trying to win out there".

Marco Asensio, Koke and Nacho have been drafted into the starting XI in what is likely to be merely a technical decision.

Spain dominated possession in the opening exchanges and got their reward in the 12th minute. Sadly, he had eyes only for Sergio Ramos, who he successfully wrestled to the floor only for the ball to cannon off his heel for a comical own goal.

Spain reached the pinnacle of the sport on the back of a game built on relentless passing aligned with bottomless patience and faith that they would always, eventually, find a way through.

Forward Artem Dzyuba buried it for his third goal of the tournament, sending Spain keeper David de Gea the wrong way to equalise and awaken the subdued crowd.

"Spain have some great players and might even be the best team in the world, in any case they're close to being the best".

But Ramos, who helped Real Madrid to the Champions League this season, insisted he will be in Qatar in four years time, when he will be 36-years-old.

A bouncing ball in the Russian box threatened another Spanish goal soon after the break, but Jordi Alba hit it awkwardly with his knee and it looped into the grateful hands of Akinfeev.

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King Felipe VI of Spain was at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

Iniesta stepped up first and scored, Smolov replied but David De Gea got a fingertip to it. Pique scored his and Ignashevich, who was superb after his own goal, coolly replied.

Some lax passing in midfield almost gifted Russian Federation with a rare chance, but Smolov chose the wrong pass and Golovin was closed down before committing a foul.

Spain, who parted ways with coach Julen Lopetegui just days before the tournament, joined England and Italy as the only teams to lose three shootouts at the World Cup, having been knocked out by hosts South Korea in 2002 and Belgium in 1986, both in the quarterfinals.

Then, in the shootout, he saved a weak penalty from Koke and pulled off a miraculous stop on Iago Aspas to seal the win, flicking the ball away with his foot as he fell to the side.

Whether in celebration or consolation, the clear liquid would flow. and all that stood between the two is 120 minutes of football and the dreaded lottery of a penalty shootout. Logic suggested that this was as far as they would go and Spain were heavy favourites to trounce the hosts on their way to the quarterfinals. Spain's first corner of the match followed after 59 minutes, but Isco's cross was headed away by Dzubya.

Iniesta and Pique scored for Spain, with Smolov and Ignashevich replying for Russian Federation.

Igor Akinfeev came up huge to deny Koke and Iago Aspas from the spot, eliminating Spain from the World Cup and sending Russian Federation to the quarters. Ramos levelled the scores for Spain but Cheryshev restored Russia's advantage.

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