It was a painful World Cup exit for Spain and coach Fernando Hierro, who replaced Julen Lopetegui, fired on the eve of the tournament after accepting Real Madrid's offer to be their manager.
The noisy 78,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium has been good for Russian Federation at this tournament, which kicked off here with a 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia.
Preparing for their first major tournament shootout, it looked as if coach Stanislav Cherchesov might struggle to find five men with enough energy left to take a penalty. "At the individual level, a wonderful stage ends", the hero of Spain's only World Cup championship in 2010 told reporters at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, reports Efe. The hosts beat Spain 4-3 on penalties to cause the biggest upset of the tournament. "It had to be made".
"Sometimes these teams "park the bus" in front of us and it's hard to handle", he said through an interpreter Saturday. "The players did their best, as always". The coach takes decisions whether you agree with them or not.
"We're not going to lose any sleep over all these variables", Hierro said.
Akinfeev's foot kept Russia's party going Sunday night, ended the global 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.
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"Players will not do things just because the coach says so".
But they won't have numerous veterans to help them, as Iniesta officially retired from the national team and many others are unlikely to be back for the next World Cup.
Spain's inconsistencies have been magnified by the form of Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea. He also made a bad mistake in the opener against Portugal, letting a weak shot from Cristiano Ronaldo go underneath him for a goal.
The team's reserve goalkeepers at the World Cup were veteran Pepe Reina and youngster Kepa Arrizabalaga. He did not expect to be leaving Russian Federation so soon but given the turmoil that enveloped Spain's campaign with the sacking of the man that got them there, no one could really have been surprised by their early exit.
Hierro said after taking over the squad he wouldn't change what had worked in the past, but it was unclear if he had changed his mind after Sunday's elimination.
Spain followed suit as Rodrigo replaced Asensio, and the former went closest to ending the impasse, sprinting towards goal after a clever dummy only for Akinfeev to claw his shot away before the rebound from Koke was blocked.