FIFA World Cup: Croatia beat Japan on penalties to progress to quarter-finals

Ivan Perisic celebrates after scoring | AP

Doha: Croatia progressed to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Qatar courtesy of a penalty-shootout victory over Japan at Al Janoub Stadium on Monday.

The two teams could not be separated during the 90 minutes, but penalties from Nikola Vlašić, Marcelo Brozović, and Mario Pašalić proved enough for Croatia to win 3-1 in the shootout, with Takumi Minamino, Kaoru Mitoma, Maya Yoshida missing for Japan. It was the Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper Livakovic who took most of the acclaim from the jubilant Croatia team after the shootout.

Japan had been looking to reach the quarterfinals for the first time but fell short again, just like in 2002, 2010 and 2018. The Asian team lost to Paraguay in a penalty shootout in the round of 16 in 2010.

Croatia, which also reached the semifinals in 1998, will play either Brazil or South Korea next.

Earlier, the round of 16 matches between Japan and Croatia remained 1-1 at the end of the regular time. Croatia came from a goal down to equalise against Japan, who went ahead in the 43rd minute through Daizen Maeda from a corner. However, Croatia equalised through Ivan Perisic's header in the 55th minute. The match moved to extra time after both teams failed to break the deadlock in the regular time.

Japan wasted several opportunities to score while Croatia struggled to contain the swift attacking football from Samurai Blues. However, Japan breaks the deadlock in the 43rd minute through Daizen Maeda from a corner.

Japan started the match looking to score early after Shogo Taniguchi’s dangerous header from a corner in the 3rd minute went inches past the post. Japan looked dangerous early on with their swift counter-attacks. On the opposite end, Ivan Perisic wasted a golden opportunity to punish Japan in the 8th minute for a defensive error. However, his shot from the right was blocked by the Japanese keeper.

In the 13th minute, Junya Ito, on the right wing, sent a low cross towards the front post. However, Daizen Maeda failed to get the decisive touch to nick the ball into the back of the net. Croatia looked rather sturdy as the match went on after Japan managed to put the ball into the final third and dominate the play. Croatia struggled to dominate the midfield and relied heavily upon longballs from the back. However, their tactics worked in the 25th minute when Petkovic received a long ball from Joško Gvardiol. However, he pondered with the ball for a long and failed to take advantage of the situation.

Daichi Kamada opened the scoring in the 42nd minute from a whipped-in cross from the right. The ball bounced around in the box and fell in front of Maeda, who nicked it in from close range to find the opener for Japan.

Japan started their second half with the same intensity as that of the first half. Daichi Kamada's attempt for a long ranger in the 46th minute went sailing over the bar. Croatia looked clueless on how to turn the tides in their favour. The referee refused to entertain Croatia's call for a penalty on a foul on Andrej Kramarić. However, Croatia went surprisingly ahead in the 55th minute through a beautiful header from Ivan Perisic. Former Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren sent a perfect cross into the box, and Perisic headed into the bottom corner with incredible precision.

Japan rebounded swiftly and nearly took the lead after Wataru Endo sent a screamer from 25 yards but got tipped behind by the keeper for a corner. Croatia came to life after equalising and looked for ways to take the lead. In the 66th minute, Budimik wasted an opportunity to score for Croatia from a perfect cross from Andrej Kramaric from the left. However, he headed the ball wide.

Perisic nearly scored his second goal in the 76th minute. He won a sloppy pass in the middle and sprinted forward before lashing a shot from the edge of the box. However, the ball deflected off the body of the defender and went behind for a corner. Both teams struggled to break the deadlock as the match entered extra time.

Dominik Livakovi denied Japan from scoring the decisive goal in the 104th minute after Mitoma sprinted to the edge of the box before unleashing a powerful shot.

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