MOSCOW — Russia’s World Cup adventure ended on Saturday night in the same way it has flowed for the past three weeks – with drama, excitement and a stirring show of patriotic spirit.
It came to a close in the cruelest of fashions, an exit on penalty kicks, and tears flowed at Sochi’s Fisht Stadium and around this country. A month ago, no one would have thought the nation could care that much.
But from an opening day signal of intent to a thrilling shootout triumph over Spain, all the way to this narrowest of defeats to Croatia, an underdog team got its own people to fall in love with it. How they will miss it now.
It is instead Croatia going through to a semifinal against England in Moscow on Wednesday. When Ivan Rakitic stroked home the decisive kick to win 4-3 on penalties following a 2-2 tie, it might have ended the Russian journey, but it has been a trip that won’t soon be forgotten here.