Dominik Livakovic proved to be the hero for Croatia as he made three key saves to send his nation through to the World Cup quarter-finals as they defeated Japan 3-1 on penalties at Al Janoub Stadium to break the hearts of the Samurai Blue.
Hajime Moriyasu’s Japan side came into the match full of confidence after wins over Spain and Germany in the group stage, and they were looking to add a third European side to their list of scalps at this tournament.
The game started off in a predictable fashion, as Croatia looked to dominate the ball. However, despite their lack of possession early on, Japan were the side that created the better chances and looked more dangerous going forward.
The Samurai Blue eventually saw more of the ball towards the end of the first period, and were the side to strike first two minutes before the break. Daizen Maeda reacted quickest to Maya Yoshida’s knockdown in the six-yard box from Ritsu Doan’s initial cross to tap the ball home beyond Dominik Livakovic in the Croatia goal.
Then, completely against the run of play, Croatia found a much-needed equaliser ten minutes into the second half. Dejan Lovren’s cross from deep was headed into the far corner by Ivan Perisic from inside the area as Zlatko Dalic’s side were back on level terms.
That sparked Croatia into life, as they continued to grow into the contest. Despite both sides creating more chances, they could not be separated after 90 minutes, and extra-time was required for the first time in the tournament.
Kaoru Mitoma had the best chance in extra-time for Japan in the 104th minute, but his powerful effort on goal after a sensational run from inside his own half was well saved by Livakovic. Extra-time finished all square and penalties were needed to find a winner.
It was a nightmare of a shootout for Japan, who saw three of their spot-kicks saved by Livakovic in the Croatia goal. Mario Pasalic slotted home the decisive penalty to send Croatia through to the last eight, where they will face either South Korea or Brazil at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan on Friday afternoon.
TALKING POINT – Japan’s excellent run in the tournament comes to an end
Japan will be devastated to once again bow out of a World Cup at this stage, but they can hold their heads up high for their performances in this tournament, as they will live long in the memory.
Beating Spain and Germany and topping Group E, in what people described before the tournament as the toughest of the lot, was no easy feat and they had their moments in this game to create more history. Sadly, for the Samurai Blue, it wasn’t to be on this occasion.
Looking back on the game, some of the football that was played at the end of the first half by Japan was brilliant, and in truth, Croatia’s equaliser came against the run of play. This defeat will be extremely tough to stomach for Moriyasu and his side, but Japanese football is in an extremely good place from what we have seen.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – Dominik Livakovic
Dominik Livakovic and Mario Pasalic of Croatia celebrate after their side won the penalty shoot out during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Japan and Croatia at Al Janoub Stadium on December 05, 2022 in Al Wakrah, Qatar
Image credit: Getty Images
The Croatia goalkeeper proved to be the hero for his nation, as his three saves in the decisive penalty shootout saw his side advance to the quarter-finals of the competition. Although all three misses in the shootout from Japan were poor efforts, you cannot take anything away from the 27-year-old, who may have just put himself in Croatian football folklore with this vital display when it really mattered.
His best save during the match came in extra-time, as he acrobatically tipped Mitoma’s powerful effort over the bar in dramatic circumstances.
Japan: Gonda 6, Tomiyasu 6, Yoshida 7, Taniguchi 6, Kamada 7, Maeda 7, Doan 7, Morita 6, Nagatomo 6, Endo 8, Ito 7. Subs: Mitoma 6, Tanaka , Sakai 6, Asano 6, Minamino 5.
Croatia: Livakovic 8, Barisic 6, Gvardiol 7, Lovren 7, Juranovic 6, Brozovic 7, Modric 6, Kovacic 6, Perisic 7, Petkovic 5, Kramaric 6. Subs: Vlasic , Orsic 6, Livaja 5, Pasalic 6, Majer 6,
40’ – OVER THE BAR! – Japan break on the counter following a Croatia free-kick, and Ito is released down the right-hand side. He tries to play in Maeda, but the forward has to bring it back for Morita. He plays in Kamada, who is in a great position in the area, but the midfielder leans back too much on the strike and it goes over the bar! Some good football by Japan here, but it is their final action that is letting them down.
43’ – GOAL! (Daizen Maeda) – Maeda gives Japan the lead just before half-time! They take a short corner and Doan sends in a dangerous cross. Yoshida wins the initial header, and Maeda reacts quickest to the knock down and slots the ball past Livakovic! Japan deserve it!
55′ – GOAL! (Ivan Perisic) – Perisic strikes for Croatia, and just like that, they are back in this tie! Lovren provides the assist with a fantastic cross from deep. Perisic reacts quickest at the back post to guide his header into the far corner of the net past Gonda!
104′ – BIG SAVE! – The Mitoma makes a sensational run into the box from his own half of the field! He goes for goal from range with a brilliant strike, and Livakovic just about palms it clear!
120+1′ – WIDE! – Majer has a big chance to win it right at the end of extra-time after Japan fail to clear their lines, but the forward drags his shot wide of the near post from close-range!
PENALTIES – Pasalic steps up for Croatia with the decisive kick, and he slots it home low to the bottom-left to win the shootout for Croatia! They get through 3-1 on penalties!
- Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic is the third goalkeeper to make three saves in a single World Cup penalty shootout after Portugal’s Ricardo in 2006 versus England and Croatia’s Danijel Subasic versus Denmark in 2018.
- Croatia have now won their last three World Cup penalty shootouts after tonight’s success (also vs Denmark and Russia in 2018).
- Ivan Perišić has now scored more goals at World Cups and European Championships combined than any other Croatia player (10).
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