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  • Writer's pictureBruno Asoka

Croatia win the first penalty shoot out of the FWC and face Brazil in the quarters

Dominik Livakovic, the Croatian goalkeeper, saved three penalties in the shootout to help Croatia defeat Japan 3-1 and go to the World Cup quarterfinals.

Following a 1-1 tie in extra time, Livakovic blocked the first two shots before turning aside Maya Yoshida's attempt. Mario Pasalic then tucked his penalty into the corner to advance his team.

The opening exchanges defied predictions of a close game for the entire 90 minutes as Japan nearly scored on their opening attack when Shogo Taniguchi headed wide. Then, at the opposite end, Ivan Perišić should have given his team the lead after eluding Takehiro Tomiyasu, but instead he erroneously shot too near to Shuichi Gonda when one-on-one.

Despite having a ton of possession, Croatia lacked any kind of cutting edge, as seen by Bruno Petković squandering a wonderful opportunity while lingering in possession and Andrej Kramarić failing to connect with  Perišić’s flicked header. They were vulnerable as a result, and Daizen Maeda gave Hajime Moriyasu's team a 1-0 lead minutes before halftime by finishing after a dangerous right wing cross went unresolved. This came after Daichi Kamada had missed the target from close range.

Given that Croatia came from behind in each of their three knockout matches en route to the 2018 final, conceding first shouldn't have bothered them. The Blazers duly regained parity as Perišić  leveled with a beautiful directed header that snuck in at the far post after Daicha Kamada had blazed over right after the restart.

Waturu Endo's long-range attempt from Japan swiftly came back against the crossbar, but Zlatko  Dalić’s team was now in control after Luka Modrić forced Gonda into an outstanding diving stop and Ante Budimir nodded wide. Tomiyasu then deflected Perišić’s strong shot for a corner, but with no more goals, another 30 minutes were needed to try to put some distance between the two teams.

However, while there was a prize on the line, there wasn't much excitement throughout extra time. The greatest opportunity fell to Kaoru Mitoma, who carried the ball 50 yards before having a strong shot blocked. Lovro Majer then missed a low effort in stoppage time, which necessitated the use of penalties to determine the winner.

Takumi Minamino and Kaoru Mitoma saw Japan’s first two penalties saved, and it was always going to be an uphill battle for their side from then on. Maya Yoshida had a third effort stopped by Livaković before Mario Pašalić netted the winning penalty, ensuring Croatia go through to face either South Korea or Brazil, while Japan suffered a fourth round-of-16 defeat.

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