Sunday January 29, 2023

Croatia beat Japan through tiebreaker to reach WC quarters

Published : 05 Dec 2022, 20:37

Updated : 05 Dec 2022, 23:21

  By Paul Giblin, Xinhua

Players of Croatia celebrate after advancing into the quarter finals after the Round of 16 match between Japan and Croatia at the 2022 FIFA World Cup at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, Dec. 5, 2022. Photo: Xinhua by Lan Hongguang.

Croatia goalkeeper Doninik Livakovic was his country's hero on Monday night as he upset three Japanese players in the penalty shootout to escort his team into the Qatar World Cup quarterfinals.

Livakovic saved penalties from Takumi Minamino, Kauru Mitoma and Maya Yoshida after the two sides tied 1-1 in the regular time and the goalless extra time in the Al Janoub Stadium.

Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu brought Takehiro Tomiyasu into his defence for the suspended Ko Itakura, with Wataru Endo and Ritsu Doan back into his midfield at the expense of Takefusa Kubo and Ao Tanaka, despite Tanaka's winning goal against Spain in Japan's last game.

Japan started brightly with Shogo Taniguchi heading wide from Endo's cross and Daizen Maedo chasing down a clearance from Livakovic.

Ivan Perisic should have scored for Croatia after Takehiro Tomiyasu's untimely slip, but his shot was blocked from a narrow angle.

Croatia settled into control of the ball, with Luka Modric looking to pull the strings, but Japan's counter-attacks were more effective than those in the first half against Spain, with Nagatomo Ito's pace a constant threat down the right.

Maedo was inches away from one of his crosses, before at the other end Andrej Kramaric couldn't force home after Perisic's near-post flick.

Maedo put Japan ahead in the 43rd minute, scoring from close range after Croatia failed to deal with a Japanese corner routine that ended with Ritsu Doan curling in a left-foot cross.

Japan were good value for their lead and Kamada and Doan threatened to extend it at the start of the second period.

However, Peresic equalized with an angled header 10 minutes into the second half, following an excellent diagonal cross from Dejan Lovren.

Japan nearly retook the lead immediately, but Livakovic tipped away Endo's dipping shot. At the other end, Modric's 25-meter effort had Gonda at full stretch.

The remainder of the regular time failed to produce any more goals. In World Cup history, Croatia have played seven knockout stage games, six of which went into extra time.

Little happened until the last minute of the first period of extra time when substitute Kaoru Mitoma finished a run from 30 meters within his own half with a powerful shot that Livakovic parried.

The last 15 minutes saw more of the same and penalties: the ultimate drama of a World Cup came into play for the first time in Qatar.

In the shootout, Croatia outscored Japan 3-1.