Croatia triumph on penalties to knock Japan out

Croatia triumph on penalties to knock Japan out

Japan’s dream run at the 2022 FIFA World Cup ended cruelly as the Blue Samurais were dumped out on penalties against Croatia in the round of 16 at the Al Janoub Stadium in Qatar. Ivan Perisic’s second-half strike cancelled out Daizen Maeda’s opener in regulation time before goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic’s heroics in the penalty shootout won the game for the 2018 finalists. The Dinamo Zagreb shot-stopper became just the third goalkeeper to save three penalties at a World Cup, helping the European side progress into the quarter-finals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Japan have fallen short in the last 16 stage at the World Cup on three separate occasions, but the Asian side got off to a lively start against Croatia, with Shogo Taniguchi heading just wide from a corner. Croatia had their fair share of chances in the opening period. Goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda was forced to intervene after Takehiro Tomiyasu’s misplaced back pass fell into the lap of Ivan Perisic.

However, Japan stepped up their pursuit towards the end of the first period, with Daichi Kamada firing wide from close range before eventually finding a deserved opener. Croatia couldn’t clear their lines after a cross from a corner, and Daizen Maeda pounced on the indecision to give Japan the lead.

Croatia levelled the scores shortly after half-time, with Ivan Perisic sending a thunderous header from Dejan Lovren’s deep cross into the back of the net to score his tenth goal at major tournaments. Luka Modric went close with a sweetly timed volley a few minutes later, but both goalkeepers played their part to save their sides and send the tie to extra time and then penalties.

In the shootout, there was only one winner from the start as Japan fluffed their lines and failed to keep their nerve under the pressure. Dominik Livakovic saved both of Japan’s first two penalties from Takumi Minamino and Karou Mitoma, while Marcelo Brozovic and Nikola Vlasic calmly found the back of the net for Croatia.

Takuma Asano got Japan on the board with their third penalty kick, while Marko Livaja hit the post to give the Asian side a lifeline. But Maya Yoshida failed to convert the next penalty as Japan resigned to another cruel defeat at the last 16.

With this result, Croatia head into the quarter-finals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, keeping the dream of emulating their success from 2018 alive. However, the European side will face a much sterner test in the next round as they take on five-time world champions Brazil on Friday in Qatar.