Croatia have reached the World Cup quarter-finals after beating Japan 3-1 on penalties – including three saves from Dominik Livakovic during the shootout – following a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.
It was the first knockout game to play an additional half an hour in Qatar after a largely even 90 minutes as Japan looked to beat their third successive European opponent following shock wins against Germany and Spain in the group stages.
Both goals came either side of the break. Daizen Maeda (43) gave Japan the lead in the first half after some scrappy Croatian defending, before Ivan Perisic’s (55) powerful header levelled shortly after the restart.
It was perhaps not a great surprise that the game went to extra time – seven of Croatia’s last eight knockout games at major tournaments have needed the added period, last losing to Spain in the round-of-16 of Euro 2020 last summer.
Again, there was little to choose between the two sides during extra-time – Kaoru Mitoma and Lovro Majer going closest for their respective countries – and it deserved to be the lottery of penalties to separate the teams.
However, for all of their superb play throughout the tournament, three of Japan’s penalties were poorly taken and easily saved by goalkeeper Livakovic. Croatia missed just one of their spot-kicks, scoring the other three to reach their third successive quarter-final stage.
Croatia’s win now sets up a quarter-final meeting with Brazil or South Korea on Friday; kick-off 3pm. The winner of that fixture will face either the Netherlands or Argentina in the semi-finals on Tuesday December 13