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Croatia put Japan out of cup on penalties

Croatia will face Brazil in the last eight of the World Cup after defeating Japan in the first penalty shootout of the Qatar finals following a 1-1 draw.

December 6, 2022
By Glenn Moore
6 December 2022

Japan have failed again to reach the last eight at a World Cup finals after being beaten in a penalty shootout by the 2018 finalists Croatia.

Dominik Livakovic was Croatia’s hero, saving three of Japan’s four spot-kicks.

The goalkeeper dived left to save Takumi Minamino’s weak opening kick, then to his right to keep out another poor one from Kaoru Mitoma.

Meanwhile Nikola Vlasic and Marcelo Brozovic scored for Croatia.

Takuma Asano kept Japanese hopes alive and when Marko Livaja hit the post it was 2-1 after three kicks each.

But Livakovic went right, and chose right, again, denying veteran defender Maya Yoshida.

That left Mario Pasalic with the chance to take Croatia through. He took it.

“It’s more an instinct than an analysis of the penalty takers … I don’t think that these penalties were too difficult to defend, (but) they shoot very hard,” man-of-the match Livakovic said.

Croatia won two shootouts en route to the last final in Moscow, but at the Al Janoub Stadium a new generation got to make their mark.

“We have 18 new players that weren’t at the Russian World Cup and I told them today – this is your chance to make history,” Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said.

“We had a fantastic goalkeeper today, he was great, he was insurmountable, he defended the penalties in a very strong, stable manner.”

Croatia will take on world No.1 Brazil in the quarter-finals on Friday (Saturday 2am AEDT) after the five-time winners thrashed South Korea 4-1.

First-half goals to Vinicius Junior, Neymar – from the penalty spot – Richarlison and Lucas Paqueta put the match out of reach at Stadium 974 before Paik Seung-ho pulled one back on 76 minutes.

The Blue Samurai, who had been seeking to become the first Asian team to reach the last eight since South Korea in 2002, and only the second to do so on foreign soil after North Korea in 1966, had fallen at the last-16 stage for the fourth time in six finals.

“Every day, for four years, we worked hard to break this barrier (reaching the last eight) but we couldn’t get the result we wanted,” captain Yoshida said.

“It’s really hard to take. We have given everything throughout this tournament and had great results, coming back against Spain and Germany.

“I am proud of my team, proud of my teammates.”

It was the first match of the finals to go to extra time and the first to penalties.

In the regulation 90 minutes Daizen Maeda had given Japan the lead in the 43rd minute, the Celtic man firing home from close range after Ritsu Doan delivered an inswinging cross into the penalty area.

The lead was deserved with Hajime Moriyasu’s team the brighter in the first half.

But Tottenham’s Ivan Perisic changed the pattern of the match when he levelled with a powerful header from Dejan Lovren’s cross 10 minutes after the interval. 

As the game wore on fatigue began to show and, though Lovro Majer missed a decent chance in the 120th minute, it was no surprise that the contest went to penalties.

“The players showed a new era of Japanese football,” Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said.

“They showed how good they can play in such a tournament like the World Cup. I hope they keep on the same way and I think Japanese football can continue to grow.”

With agencies.

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