During extra time, there was little to choose between the two teams, with Kaoru Mitoma and Lovro Majer coming closest for their respective countries.
Croatia advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals after defeating Japan 3-1 on penalties, with Dominik Livakovic making three saves during the shootout after a 1-1 tie after 120 minutes. After a largely even 90 minutes, Japan looked to beat their third consecutive European opponent after shocking wins over Germany and Spain in the group stages. Both goals came just before the halftime break. Daizen Maeda (43) gave Japan the lead in the first half after some scrappy Croatian defending, but Ivan Perisic’s (55) powerful header levelled shortly after the restart. The game went to extra time, which was perhaps unsurprising given that seven of Croatia’s last eight knockout games at major tournaments required extra time, with the country most recently losing to Spain in the round of 16 of Euro 2020 last summer.
During extra time, there was little to choose between the two teams, with Kaoru Mitoma and Lovro Majer coming closest for their respective countries, and the teams deserved to be separated by a lottery of penalties. Despite their strong play throughout the tournament, three of Japan’s penalties were poorly executed and easily saved by goalkeeper Livakovic. Croatia missed only one of their four penalty kicks, scoring the other three to reach the quarter-finals for the third time in a row.
Here are some of the talking points from the match
Their penalties might not have been up to the mark but Japan has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. The Samurai Blues lived up to their name as they invoked their fighting spirit throughout their stay in the tournament. No one expected them to reach the knockouts when they were drawn in a group with Spain and Germany. Not only did they beat both the footballing heavyweights, but they also qualified as group winners and won the hearts of fans all around the globe, perhaps excluding Germans.
Croatia are undoubtedly one of the great footballing nations but of late, they have been pretty under par. One of the major concerns is their speed and intensity, which they very evidently lack at the moment. The Croats will face Brazil in the last eight, a team that relies heavily on pace. The Brazilians can rip apart sluggish teams in minutes and Croatia run the risk of an embarrassing if they do not level up.
Dominik Livakovic’s heroics during the shootout is what ensured the Croatians spot in the last eight and they will be heavily reliant on him in their next match as well, The Croat goalkeeper saved three penalties to ensure his team’s place in the last eight and he deserves every bit of praise that he has received for that performance.