Spain crashed out of the World Cup at the last-16 stage after a penalties defeat to hosts Russia on Sunday.
Spain took the lead through Sergei Ignashevich’s own goal, but they failed to turn their dominance into chances and Gerard Pique’s handball gifted Russia the equaliser on the stroke of half-time, before Koke and Iago Aspas missed their spot-kicks to prolong La Roja’s run of no wins against a host nation at a major tournament.
Andres Iniesta’s place in midfield was taken by Koke, who partnered Sergio Busquets in a double pivot, while Marco Asensio lined up on the left wing, with Thiago Alcantara making way. Elsewhere, Nacho Fernandez came in for Dani Carvajal at right-back, although the trio were available to Fernando Hierro during the game.
As for Russia, defender Igor Smolnikov was suspended and attacking midfielder Alan Dzagoev was ruled out for the rest of the World Cup with injury.
Nonetheless, Coach Stanislav Cherchesov brought his big boys back in Moscow, among them Chelsea and Juventus target Aleksandr Golovin, although Denis Cheryshev dropped to the substitutes’ bench.
La Roja were heavy favourites to win the knockout clash but had the unwanted honour of never beating a host nation at a World Cup or European Championship in nine previous attempts.
La Roja were showing all the right signs early on as a pinpoint cross towards the far post forced Ignashevich into wrestling with Sergio Ramos and turning into his own net.
But for all their dominance on the ball, which yielded in excess of 1000 passes, they would go into half-time level as Gerard Pique raised his arm to block a header in the box, allowing Artem Dzyuba to send David de Gea the wrong way from the spot.
A scrappy second half ensued, with Hierro again not making any changes until after the hour mark, although Iniesta – one of them – came the closest to a Spanish winner, only for Igor Akinfeev to push away his half-volley.
With no winner after 90 minutes, history was made when either side brought on a fourth substitute for the first time ever at a World Cup.
Rodrigo Moreno was La Roja’s and his deft dummy saw him break clear of the Russian defence, but the Valencia striker was denied by Akinfeev.
VAR was finally called upon with just minutes of extra-time remaining, and it arguably cost Spain a penalty as Pique was clearly pulled down by Ignashevich in the area, yet the official behind the monitors disagreed.
Only penalties could decide the tie, and while Stanislav Cherchesov’s men netted all four of theirs, Koke and Iago Aspas had their efforts saved.
Spain 1-1 Russia (3-4 pen.)
Ignashevich og 42 (S) Dzyuba pen 42 (R)
Spain: De Gea; Nacho (Carvajal 70), Pique, Ramos, Alba; Busquets, Koke; Asensio (Rodrigo 104), Isco; Silva (Iniesta 67); Costa (Aspas 80)
Russia: Akinfeev; Fernandes, Kutepov, Ignashevich, Kudriashov; Kuziaev (Erokhin 97), Zobnin; Samedov (Cheryshev 61), Golovin, Zhirkov (Granat 46); Dzyuba (Smolov 65)
Referee: Kuipers (NED)