Croatia is making a run in back-to-back World Cups. Croatian fans can only hope they finish better than the 2018 World Cup.
Croatia Moves Forward
Croatia’s run continued Monday, as it beat Japan in a penalty shootout. Croatia now advance to the quarterfinals, where it will play the winner of this afternoon’s match between Brazil and South Korea.
After a back-and-forth first half, Japan managed to take the lead on a goal from striker Daizen Maeda. Ritsu Dōan crossed in the ball, which bounced off several Croatian defenders before landing at Maeda’s feet. The Celtic striker only had to tap the ball past Croatian keeper Dominik Livaković, who could only lunge at it.
Croatia was able to tie the game early in the second half. Croatian defender Dejan Lovren received the ball near midfield and rocketed it into the Japanese box. Ivan Perišic managed to head the ball, lasering it into the bottom right corner for a goal.
With his goal, Perišic became Croatia’s leading scorer at major tournaments with 10. Perišic also became one of four players to score at the last three World Cups. He joins superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as Swiss attacker Xherdan Shaqiri.
Croatia managed to keep the pressure on throughout the second half. The Eastern European side had a few major chances in the second half, including a Luka Modric half-volley that Japanese keeper Shūichi Gonda deflected. Japan was able to hold off Croatia’s late surge, taking the game into extra time.
The match ultimately came down to penalties. Japan missed three of its four penalties, with Croatia making three of four. Livaković blocked Maya Yoshida’s final penalty to send Croatia through to the quarterfinals.
Japan had been on an unprecedented run at Qatar’s World Cup. The squad managed to win a group featuring both Spain and Germany, two powerhouses of the sport. This included a shocking win against Germany on matchday one that essentially eliminated the European giants, as well as a matchday three win against Spain that pushed it to the top of Group E. Its run ended Monday against Croatia.
Croatia will next face the winner of today’s match between Brazil and South Korea.