Cool, calm, Croatia.
The Vatreni went into extra time three times in their run to the 2018 World Cup Final, and they used that experience to keep their 2022 hopes alive.
The team edged Japan 1-1 (3-1) on penalty kicks in its round of 16 contest at Al Janoub Stadium on Monday. Nikola Vlašić, Marcelo Brozović and Mario Pašalić scored in the penalty shootout, but the story for Croatia came in goal.
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Dominik Livaković was on Croatia’s 2018 World Cup squad, but he did not see any game action in Russia. The goalkeeper was ready for his moment against Japan, stopping Takumi Minamino on the first penalty kick attempt and blocking Kaoru Mitoma on the second. Takuma Asano scored on Japan’s third try, but Livaković got a third save by stymying Maya Yoshida on the next shot. Pašalić stepped up next and nailed the game-winner to send Croatia into the quarterfinals.
Croatia-Japan was the first match at the 2022 World Cup to reach extra time, let alone penalties. Japan had only gone past 90 minutes once in its World Cup history, while Croatia did it three times, all of which came four years ago.
Daizen Maeda opened the scoring in the 43rd minute of the match. Japan threaded some passes off a corner kick before sending a cross into the box, and the ball found Maeda. The Celtic forward capitalized from close range and gave Japan its first World Cup halftime lead since its opening match of the 2014 group stage.
Japan’s lead didn’t last long into the second half, though. Ivan Perišić put home an equalizer on a header in the 55th minute to tie the score at 1-1. The goal was Perišić’s first of the tournament and put him in a tie with Davor Šuker as Croatia’s all-time World Cup goals leader.
There were no more goals for the remaining 65 minutes. Livaković and Japanese goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda maintained the 1-1 score through the rest of the second half and the two extra-time periods, prompting the penalty shootout
With the win, Croatia will now play in the first quarterfinal of the 2022 World Cup at 10 a.m. ET on Friday. The team will find out its opponent in a matter of hours on Monday, as Brazil and South Korea will square off in a round of 16 match at 2 p.m. ET. Croatia lost to Brazil at the World Cup in 2006 and 2014 group stages and has never faced South Korea in the tournament.
Japan will head home in the round of 16 for the third time in the last four World Cups and is still without a quarterfinals appearance in its history. The team beat Germany and Spain to win Group E, and it became the first group winner to be eliminated in Qatar.