Spain legend Andres Iniesta announces retirement after World Cup exit

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Disbelief and jubilation is gripping the host nation after their team pulled off one of the biggest World Cup upsets in recent memory by beating 2010 champions Spain in a penalty shootout in the last 16.

Iniesta was surprisingly benched to start the game against Russian Federation, but came on in the second half with the score level at 1-1.

They entered the tournament as the worst-ranked host in history - the 70th best team in the world, according to Federation Internationale de Football Association - but then beat Saudi Arabia and Egypt with two hard-running performances that surprised their own fans as much as anyone else.

Millions of Russian fans, many of whom were mocking this team just a couple of weeks ago, are jumping loudly on the bandwagon.

Spain controlled the possession and play during the 120 minutes of normal and extra time, however their players failed to find the goal even once. "Spain can't always be lucky".

Andres Iniesta, 34, and Gerard Pique, 31 - who won the World Cup alongside Ramos in 2010 - have already confirmed that they are leaving the national setup following a third straight disappointment at an global tournament, with other members of Spain's golden generation including David Silva, 32, and Pepe Reina, 35, also expected to bow out now. "But in the end, we are the ones who have the ball". "We lost our leader", said the midfielder after the game. "We left our soul in the pitch".

And Super Deporte asked Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who lured Spain coach Julen Lopetegui away from the national team on the eve of the tournament, "Are you satisfied?" Lopetegui was sacked because he didn't tell Spain's soccer leaders he accepted an offer to coach Real Madrid after the tournament.

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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. The 34-year-old Barcelona midfielder came off the bench and nearly won the game with an 85th-minute shot well saved by Akinfeev.

For the second time in the history of the world Cup, both matches of the day's play ended in a penalty shootout.

There was more penalty drama in the later match in Nizhny Novgorod, with Croatia coming out on top 3-2 just minutes after Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel had saved a penalty at the end of extra-time.

Veteran Russia centre-back Sergei Ignashevich gifted Spain the opening goal on 12 minutes in Moscow when he unwittingly turned into his own net after grappling with Sergio Ramos. The 38-year-old defender diverted a crossed ball into the net with his heel as he and Ramos got tangled up. Pique's complaints were wasted.

Dzyuba calmly sent De Gea the wrong with his penalty to join Cheryshev on a team-leading three goals. That defied expectations for the home team, and Russia's path to the final also includes a potential semifinal here.

But the chant roared by the 80,000-crowd packed into Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium - the same word echoing in bars and metro stations and shouted in Komsomolsk-on-Amur 6,000 kilometres (3,800 miles) to the east - was "Ro-ssi-ya!" over and over again. The king is a soccer fan who, as crown prince, attended the 2010 World Cup final in Johannesburg to see Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0.

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