Russia got the miracle they were hoping for on Sunday as they eliminated 2010 winners Spain in penalties for a place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
For Spain, it was another anguish as they reenacted their terrible record against host nations at major finals. It was their ninth loss. Coach Fernando Hierro was on the receiving end of a stunning defeat by minnows South Korea on penalties as a player in 2002.
Underdogs Russia and the least ranked in the tournament had now dealt them a similar blow, like the Koreans.
Russia came into the tournament derided by their own supporters after a string of defeats in warm-up matches but they thrashed Saudi Arabia 5-0 in their opener and then swept aside Egypt 3-1, making even their own sceptical public believe.
A comprehensive defeat to Uruguay provided a reality check.
Russia however went into the game in the 80,000-crowd Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow determined to teach Spain’s stars such as Andres Iniesta, Isco and Diego Costa, some lessons.
They held Spain 1-1 all through 120 minutes, even though they had an average of 25 per cent possession. Then in the penalties, had a memorable victory, winning 4-3.