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Russia’s Soccer Victory Sparks Street Celebrations

Russian Fans Celebrate Victory Over Spain
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Russian soccer fans celebrated late into the night after the host team of the World Cup again exceeded expectations and defeated Spain, ranked No. 10 in the world by FIFA.

"It's incredible!" yelled a fan after the 70th-ranked Russia squad scored the 4-3 victory in a penalty shoot-out after finishing regulation time and two extra periods in a 1-1 draw before 78,011 fans at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.

Street parties broke out almost immediately in central Moscow, with a band playing the Russian national anthem and passing cars honking their horns and dancing fans waving the flag to celebrate the team’s unexpected success.

Fans climbed up lampposts to cheer and some wore false mustaches in imitation of coach Stanislav Cherchesov.

"This is a great victory for us, for the whole country, the soul of the country," said Muscovite Mikhail Sitner, 34.

"Spain is a really strong team. It's really surprising how Russia has played," Yulia, a 29-year-old teacher, said after watching the match on a large-screen TV at the FIFA Fan Fest site at Moscow State University.

"It's better at the stadium, of course. But for those who don't have that opportunity, come to the Fan Fest!" she added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said President Vladimir Putin did not attend the game but had watched it remotely and called Cherchesov to congratulate him.

Russia was represented at the match by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, while King Felipe VI of Spain was at Luzhniki Stadium to support his country’s team.

Russia will next meet Croatia on July 7 in Sochi. Croatia also won on penalty kicks, 3-2, over Denmark after also ending in a 1-1 draw.

The team’s success has been a political boon to Putin at a time when economic issues have caused strains with some of the population.

As soccer fans were celebrating the victory, thousands of people took to the streets across the country to protest against the government's plan to raise the retirement age.

Some protesters chanted slogans against Putin and called on the president and the government to resign.

Labor unions, political parties, and opposition politician Aleksei Navalny had called on Russians to demonstrate on July 1 against a bill to raise the pension age from 60 to 65 by 2028 for men and from 55 to 63 for women by 2034.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Russian Service, dpa, AP, and Reuters
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