FIFA World Cup 2022: Croatia beat Japan on penalties to reach the quarterfinals

6 December, 2022

Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia is through to the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup for the second edition in a row. Having reached the final where they lost to France, they have once again made it to the final eight stages. 

Japan got off to a positive start and created better chances early on. Croatia had one great moment in the eight-minute where they nearly broke the deadlock, but couldn’t capitalize. Japan’s high-energy and high-octane running between the lines and on breakaways proved to be difficult to deal with for the Croatians, who couldn’t do anything but soak in that pressure. 

It was too much to deal with when Ritsu Doan swung a delightful ball into the box from the right flank. His left-footed cross made the Croatian defenders throw their bodies helplessly, but after a couple of deflections, it fell kindly for Daizen Maeda to score his first goal of the campaign. Japan went into the half-time break with a 1-0 lead. 

Perhaps they had exhausted a lot of energy in the first half but Japan put their feet off the pedals in the second 45. They let Croatia control the ball a lot more often and they got the breakthrough just eight minutes after the break. Dejan Lovren assisted Ivan Perisic to score his third goal in World Cup knockouts, having scored twice before the last edition, in the semi-final and the final. 

Both sides made plenty of substitutions, later on, to bring in fresh legs, but they could not produce a match-deciding contribution. As it turned out, the game went into extra time, and soon after, it was time for penalties. Croatia’s experience with penalty shootouts turned out to be pivotal at this moment as Japan crumbled under pressure. 

Dominik Livakovic saved the first two shots he faced off Takumi Minamino and Kaoru Mitoma, whilst Vlasic and Brozovic scored for Croatia. Livaja fluffed his lines for Croatia in a minor scare for the Europeans, but Livakovic produced his third penalty save to set up a match point for Mario Pasalic, who converted with ease. 

Croatia’s last five knockout matches in the FIFA World Cup have gone into extra time and three times, the result was decided on penalties. The only exception was the final against France, where they lost 4-2 in normal time.