Dominic Livakovic stars, saving three penalties as Croatia beat Japan to reach the quarterfinals of the 2022 World Cup.
Japan: Shuichi Gonda; Takehiro Tomiyasu, Maya Yoshida, Shogo Taniguchi; Junyo Ito, Wataru Endo, Hidemasa Morita, Yuto Nagatamo; Ritsu Doan, Daizen Maeda, Daichi Kamada.
Croatia: Dominik Livakovic; Josip Juranovic, Dejan Lovren, Josko Gvardiol, Borna Barisic; Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic; Andrej Kramaric, Bruno Petkovic, Ivan Perisic.
If the Croatians had something to fear going into the game, it was Japan’s breathtaking group stage results. Thumping two top European teams – Germany and Spain to win their group is no mean feat.
The Croats still had past records to count on. They have played Japan twice and have never lost or conceded a goal. They won one and drew one.
Nevertheless, the Croats need not rely on the records after the Croats bundled Germany out of the competition and secured all three points against Spain.
The two teams made some alterations to the starting lineup as they hoped to secure the ticket to the next round of the competition.
The encounter gave Ballon d’Or winner and Real Madrid star Luka Modric the opportunity to play against Japan for the first time in his illustrious football career.
Japan forced the Croats to drink from a fire hose as the game began. Rapid moves, fast counters, and quick threats in the Croatian box nearly gave Japan an early lead.
Tanugichi ran riot for Japan upfront and nearly made it count with a header. The attempt happened to be Japan’s last before Croatia regained control of the game and pinned down their opponents
Ivan Perisic made dangerous moves to offset the Japanese backline. Gonda struggled a bit to keep off Perisic.
Luka Modric Modric was again towering in the midfield as the Croats controlled proceedings and effectively tamed the Japanese. But they largely left the flanks open for rapid counterattacks by the Japanese. It was still goalless after the half-hour mark.
The game was reduced to a walking pace with no clear threats from both ends. Luka Modric had tried to spark action by attempting to locate Perisic with a through ball down the flank, but the combination failed, with Gonda, the protagonist frustrating all efforts by the Croats.
The first half nearly ended in a barren draw, but poor defending by Croatia paved the way for the Japanese to swing into the lead, with Maeda scoring after a corner kick in the 43rd minute.
Japan went into the break with the lead, but it was more of a lucky goal after a largely unimpressive performance by both sides.
Japan were emboldened after taking the lead. Kamada and Maeda were frequently threatening the Croatian defence in the second half.
A closed and fast marking made the game difficult for the Croats in the first 10 minutes of play. But they left the defence vulnerable when charging forward and were made to pay dearly for it in the 54th minute. It was a simple goal. Lovren finds Perisic inside the box with a good cross, and Perisic’s thumping header into the far corner was enough to hand the Croats an equaliser.
After the goal, both teams increased their attacking pace. The midfield was left widely opened, and both teams sent more players forward.
Nothing changed as the game approached the last minutes of regulation. However, it seems the Japanese were losing their attacking pace while the Croats took over.
But nothing changed. Both teams settled for a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes of regulation time and headed into extra time, which finished with the same scoreline.
Yoshida, Takumi, and Mitoma all have their penalty saved by Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic as Croatia won 1-3 on penalties to make it to the quarterfinals.