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Japan 1-1 Croatia (aet, 1-3 pens): Livakovic heroics secure quarters spot

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Dominik Livakovic became Croatia’s latest penalty hero as they again survived a World Cup shootout on Monday, beating Japan 3-1 from the spot after a turgid 1-1 draw at Al Janoub Stadium.

Goalkeeper Livakovic saved spot-kicks from Takumi Minamino, Kaoru Mitoma and Maya Yoshida to send Croatia through to the quarter-finals.

Danijel Subasic had likewise kept out three penalties in a last-16 shootout during a run to the final in Russia four years ago, with Croatia now having won each of their three World Cup knockout ties that have gone all the way.

The result was a little harsh on Japan, who had led through Daizen Maeda before Ivan Perisic equalised, although neither side impressed ahead of a meeting with either Brazil or South Korea in the next round.

An entertaining start was not an indicator of what was to come. Shogo Taniguchi headed wide at one end and Perisic was denied at the other, but there was not another clear-cut chance until the opener two minutes before half-time.

Ritsu Doan’s cross following a short corner reached the centre of the area, where Maya Yoshida’s attempt at a shot succeeded instead in teeing up Maeda for a close-range finish.

Croatia had not looked like crafting a goal of their own, but they were level 10 minutes after the restart when Perisic met Dejan Lovren’s delivery with a superb header into the bottom-right corner.

Although Ante Budimir soon nodded off target, opportunities remained scarce and Lovro Majer dragged wide with the final kick of extra time to condemn the tie to penalties.

Livakovic kept out Japan’s first two attempts, with his save from Mitoma particularly impressive, and Croatia could ease through even with Marko Livaja clipping a dreadful effort against the post.

What does it mean? Croatia go the distance once more

Playing 120 minutes was nothing new for Croatia, having now seen seven of their past eight knockout games at major tournaments go to extra time. Each of their three wins before the final four years ago came after playing an additional period.

Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Perisic had all been substituted by the end, but Croatia yet again found a way.

Shootout trend continues

Japan won the toss to take the penalties in front of their fans and also had the choice whether to go first or second. Yoshida opted to take first.

Seven consecutive World Cup shootouts have now been won by the team going second, including Croatia in each of theirs. They join Argentina and Germany as the only team to have won each of their first three shootouts at the finals.

Perisic steps up again

Croatia would not have made it as far as penalties if not for Perisic’s equaliser, which was his 10th goal at major tournaments, moving ahead of Davor Suker for an outright national record.

Suker is now the only man with more Croatia goals across all competitions, with his 45 ahead of Perisic’s 33 (tied with Mario Mandzukic).

Key Opta Stats:

– Croatia have progressed from all three of their appearances in the round of 16 at the World Cup.
– Japan have been eliminated from all four of their round-of-16 appearances at the World Cup (D2 L2), while they have lost both of their penalty shootouts in the competition (also vs Paraguay in 2010).
– Livakovic is the third goalkeeper to make three saves in a World Cup penalty shootout after Portugal’s Ricardo in 2006 versus England and compatriot Subasic versus Denmark in 2018.
– Croatia have avoided defeat in five of their last six World Cup matches in which they conceded the first goal (W2 D3 L1).
– Perisic became the first Croatia player to score in five different major tournaments (World Cup and Euros).
– Maeda scored just his second goal for Japan in what was his 11th appearance in all competitions, while the goal was Japan’s first shot on target in the first half at World Cup 2022.

What’s next?

Croatia can look forward to facing Brazil in the first quarter-final at Education City Stadium

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