The World Cup journey is over for the Blue Samurais of Japan as they crash out on penalties to Croatia.
Croatia’s goalkeeper, Dominik Livakovic stood tall during the shootouts, saving three of Japan’s four penalties to send him team into the quarter final.
The opening 90 minutes was a close fought affair, with Croatia controlling the possession but lacking the cutting edge. They would pay for their missed chances before the halftime whistle, when Daizen Maeda put the Japanese in front.
Croatia’s equalizer came 10 minutes into the second half when Ivan Perisic, met a cross from Dejan Lovren with a wonderful guided header. Both teams kept pushing but nobody could find a winner before full time.
In a tightly contested extra 30 minute period, the best chance fell to Brighton’s Kaoru Mitoma but his strike from long range was saved by Livakovic.
This situation wouldn’t have been new for Croatia as seven of their last eight knockout games at major tournaments have needed extra time, last losing to Spain in the round-of-16 of Euro 2020 last summer.
A winner would have to come from a penalty shootout and Japan saw their first two penalties saved by Livakovic. The Dinamo Zagreb goalie saved a third penalty from Maya Yoshida to give his country the chance to win, a chance taken as Mario Pašalić found the corner of the net to send the Europeans to the Quarterfinal and a matchup with either Brazil or South Korea.