Spain exited the 2018 edition of the tournament on Sunday courtesy of a penalty shoot-out defeat against unfancied hosts Russian Federation after being held to a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.
MOSCOW - Stanislav Cherchesov, the coach of Russia's national team, thought for only a moment about the question - How do you feel? - before staring straight ahead and answering. It was the first match of the tournament to go to penalty kicks.
More than 74 per cent possession, an astonishing 1,137 passes and utter territorial domination, yet the only statistic that counted in the end for Spain was the two penalties they missed after they strangled themselves out of the World Cup.
"We are having a fantastic World Cup".
"Over the whole second half and extra time we were defending our goal and managed it, we were hoping for penalties because Spain are hard to beat".
Russian Federation introduced Aleksandr Yerokhin for Daler Kuzyayev - the first time ever that a fourth substitute had been used at the World Cup - and Asensio fired straight at Akinfeev from the edge of the area before coming off for Rodrigo as Spain also used their fourth sub.
Without their talisman, who had single-handedly destroyed Manchester City and Roma in the quarter-finals and semi-finals to set up a showdown with Real Madrid in Kiev, Liverpool lost the match 3-1, with Ramos lifting the trophy for a third successive season.
It may have been a dry 120 minutes but there was high drama in the shootout for the 78,000 spectators at Luzhniki Stadium, with all four Russian penalty-takers keeping their cool and Muscovite Akinfeev doing well to deny Koke's effort. "I accept the responsibility, I am the head coach".
"It's painful, there's nothing else we can say", Spain captain Sergio Ramos said. And the last game of the round of 16 features a Swedish side that won a tough group versus a Swiss team with issues in the back but enough talent up front to score against anyone.
Sunday's defeat ended Andres Iniesta's Spain career.
Artem Dzyuba, the lone center forward whose thankless task it was to try and punish Spain on Russia's few breaks, was considerably less restrained: "We are insanely happy", he said. Dzyuba stepped up with confidence and dispatched the spot kick beyond David de Gea for an unlikely equaliser. Croatia and Denmark were tied 1-1 at the end of extra time.
"We're insanely happy", Dzyuba said.
Villarreal winger Cheryshev, who has scored three goals so far, is looking to exploit a surprisingly suspect Spain defence.
Russian Federation was represented by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who was on his feet and leaning on a protective barrier to watch the shootout.