It was the first knockout game to play an extra half-hour in Qatar after a largely even 90 minutes, as Japan looked to beat their third straight European opponent following shock wins against Germany and Spain in the group stage.
The two goals came on either side of the break. Daizen Maeda (43) gave Japan the first-half lead after a Croatian defence, before Ivan Perisic’s powerful header (55) equalized shortly after the restart.
It was perhaps no big surprise that the game went to extra time: seven of Croatia’s last eight knockout games at major tournaments have necessitated the extra period, last losing to Spain in the round of 16 at Euro 2020 last summer.
Again, there was little to choose between the two teams during extra time: Kaoru Mitoma and Lovro Majer were the closest for their respective countries, and it deserved to be the penalty lottery to separate the teams.
However, despite their excellent play throughout the tournament, three of Japan’s penalties were missed and easily saved by goalkeeper Livakovic. Croatia missed just one of their shots from the penalty spot, and scored the other three to reach their third successive quarterfinal stage.
After the game, Japan’s head coach Hajime Moriyasu revealed that he did not choose the penalty takers, saying: “I asked the players to decide for themselves.
“The players tried under such immense pressure and I would like to commend their efforts. We have to accept this result, but if we succumb to the pressure, I don’t think so. I think the goalkeeper was great and the players who took the penalty kicks too. they were brave.
“In the end, of course we wanted to win and the result is very unfortunate, but it is what it is. It doesn’t negate all the effort from the players.”
How Croatia edged out Japan in the quarter-finals Image: Ivan Perisic celebrates after scoring Croatia’s equalizer
It was a ground-up premiere at Al Janoub Stadium. Shogo Taniguchi headed wide after a penalty corner before Maeda charged at Livakovic in a lively start for Japan. Then there was a goal mouth scramble at the other end, Shuichi Gonda denying Perisic before pounced on the loose ball.
Great game moments…
Min. 3: Taniguchi heads wide in an early opening for Japan. Min. 12: Ito sends a low cross, but Maeda and Nagatomo can’t connect. Min. 41: Kamada shoots wide after a beautiful play by Japan on the left. 44 min: Maeda gives Japan the lead after a short corner. Min 55: Perisic equalizes for Croatia with a powerful header. Min. 57: Endo forces Livakovic to save with his fingertip while Japan looks for an instant response to Croatia’s goal. Min. 63: Modric forces a superb save from Gonda with a thunderous volley. Min. 104: excellent progress by Mitoma and a shot well saved by Livakovic. Pens: Livakovic makes three saves as Croatia win the shootout 3-1.
While Croatia continued to see the best of possession – Perisic’s header midway through the half deflected Andrej Kramaic’s gaze at the far post – it was Japan who had the best chances.
Ito delivered a wonderful low cross into the box, but neither Maeda nor Yuto Nagatomo could hide it. Then Daichi Kamada fired wide from close range.
Arsenal’s Takehiro Tomiyasu came on defense in place of the suspended Ko Itakura as one of three changes. Wataru Endo and Ritsu Doan also entered midfield to the detriment of Takefusa Kubo and Ao Tanaka, who scored against Spain. Borna Barisic and Bruno Petkovic of Rangers started for Croatia as part of two changes in a 0-0 draw with Belgium. Marko Livaja and Borna Sosa, who is unwell and out of the squad, have made way.
Just before the break, Japan took a well-deserved lead. A short corner was awarded to Ritsu Doan, who sent a superb cross into the box. He headed up the middle and with Croatia unable to punt, he allowed Maeda to slip in a foot and send the ball home.
Japan gave their opponents another scare early in the second half, but a quality moment from Perisic saw Croatia level. Dejan Lovren delivered a deep cross, with the Tottenham forward heading Gonda powerfully.
Both teams continued to trade blows with the goalies put to work. Wataru Endo’s shot from distance forced Livakovic to make a fingertip save. Luka Modric then sent a thunderous volley towards goal, but a leaping Gonda kept his excellent effort off him.
Soon, Croatia began to exert control as their tournament experience came to light. Ante Budimir nodded some deflected efforts, with a left foot effort from Perisic also deflected past the post.
Image: Daizen Maeda (C) celebrates scoring Japan’s first goal against Croatia
However, neither team was able to add another as the game headed into the first extra time period of the 2022 World Cup.
Neither team wanted to give anything away in the first 15 minutes, but Brighton’s Mitoma created a wonderful opportunity out of thin air. He ran down the field, covering almost the entire field, but Livakovic deftly deflected the final effort from him.
Image: Croatian Dominik Livakovic saved three penalties in the shootout against Japan
There was more energy in the second half of extra time – Lovro Majer fired just wide with the final shot – but neither could find another goal, sending the game to penalties.
But it was a poor performance by Japan during the shootout. Only Takuma Asano scored as Livakovic saved spot shots from Minamino, Mitoma and Maya Yoshida. Marko Livaja hit the post on Croatia’s only miss as Mario Pasalic scored the winning penalty to help his team advance.
What does the result mean?
Croatia’s victory now sets up a quarterfinal meeting with Brazil on Friday; start 3:00 p.m. The winner of that match will face the Netherlands or Argentina in the semifinals on Tuesday, December 13; start 7pm.
Man of the Match – Dominik Livakovic
Japan: Gonda (7), Taniguchi (7), Endo (7), Doan (7), Morita (6), Nagatomo (6), Ito (7), Kamada (7), Tomiyasu (7), Yoshida (7 ) ), Maeda (7).
Substitutes used: Mitoma (7), Asano (7), Sakai 96), Minamino (6), Tanaka (n/a).
Croatia: Livakovic (8), Barisic (6), Perisic (7), Lovren (7), Kovacic (6), Kramaric (6), Modric (7), Brozovic (7), Petkovic (7), Gvardiol (7) ) ), Juranovic (7).
Substitutes used: Budimir (7), Pasalic (7), Majer (7), Vlasic (6), Orsic (n/a), Livaja (n/a).
Man of the match: Dominik Livakovic.
Japan’s penalties were nervous. Tentative. But two of those stopped by Livakovic were heading to the corner. The total expected goal value after those four penalties were taken was greater than three. Only one won. Good saves from the Croatian goalkeeper.
Despite all the talk about the Croatian experience, the biggest names, Modric, Perisic and Kovacic, had already been replaced. It fell to his 27-year-old goalkeeper, who was playing in his first World Cup knockout match, to make the difference.
Livakovic had faced 54 career penalties before this match, with a 74 per cent conversion rate against him. The average conversion rate is around 78 percent, similar to that of the Japanese goalkeeper Gonda. The statistics were on his side. Livakovic backed him up.
Image: Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic celebrates with teammate Mario Pasalic at full time
After the game, Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic said: “We had a fantastic goalkeeper. He was great today, he saved each of the penalties in a very strong and steady way.
“Yesterday we practiced penalties in training and he made several saves. When he had the penalty shootout today he was sure, yesterday he installed this confidence and he was sure that today he would show that ability.
“We couldn’t be dominant, but we have shown strength of character. The Japanese might have underestimated us, never do that to Croatia. We are a small nation but we fight for what we want.”
Moriyasu hails ‘new era’ of Japanese football Image: Japan gave a good account of themselves in Qatar but were knocked out on penalties
Japan coach Moriyasu also insisted the nation is entering a “new era” of football, having progressed from Group E against all odds.
“Although the result was not what we expected, I told them that it does not deny everything we did,” he said.
“We couldn’t break through in the round of 16 and we couldn’t get a new perspective or see a new panorama, but the Japanese team won against Germany and Spain, who have been World Cup champions.
“I think the players showed a new era of Japanese football and they should use this feeling of being upset and try to win it next time.”
“The players can be sure that they can play on the world stage. They showed how well they can play in a tournament like the World Cup and I hope they continue on the same path and I believe that Japanese football can continue to grow.”
Opta Stats: Japan back to round of 16 Japan have been knocked out of all four of their World Cup round of 16 appearances (D2 L2), while they have lost both of their penalty shootouts in the competition (also against Paraguay in 2010 ).Croatia have avoided defeat in five of their last six World Cup games in which they conceded the first goal (W2 D3 L1), with three of those games going to penalties (also against Denmark and Russia in 2018 ). Only Davor Suker (45) has scored more goals in all competitions for Croatia than Ivan Perisic (33 – on the same level as Mario Mandzukic). Daizen Maeda scored just his second goal for Japan in what was his 11th appearance in all competitions, while this goal was Japan’s first shot on goal in the first half of the 2022 World Cup. Gvardiol ‘happy’ at Leipzig despite the link with Chelsea
by Josko Gvardiol The agent insists that the Croatian defender is happy with RB Leipzig amid recent ties to chelsea
The 20-year-old has been one of his country’s standout players at the World Cup in Qatar and played 120 minutes as Croatia beat Japan on penalties.
Chelsea were heavily linked with a late move by Gvardiol in the summer transfer window but no deal was reached and despite those links refusing to go away, his agent Marjan Sisic insists there is no rush to secure a movement.
“Josko is very happy in Leipzig,” Sisic told Sky Germany. “Their development of him is excellent and with Marco Rose as the new coach, RB is playing very well.
“Regarding a transfer in the summer of 2023, we are not in a hurry and there is no agreement with any club. Of course, some important clubs have already communicated, but he has a long-term contract in Leipzig.”
Gvardiol has a contract with Leipzig until 2026.
In August, RB Leipzig managing director Oliver Mintzlaff told Sky Germany that the player would stay this season and “most likely” the 2023-24 campaign as well.