Japan (1) 1-1 (3) Croatia: Pasalic scores crucial penalty to send Hrvatska into quarter-finals
Croatia's midfielder #08 Mateo Kovacic fights for the ball with Japan's midfielder #06 Wataru Endo during the Qatar 2022 World Cup round of 16 football match between Japan and Croatia at the Al-Janoub Stadium in Al-Wakrah, south of Doha on December 5, 2022.

Croatia dug deep to beat Japan on penalties to progress into the quarter-finals. Across 120 minutes it finished 1-1, with Ivan Perisic and Daizen Maeda scoring the only goals. The teams were only separated by penalties, with Japan's poor finishing costing them in the crucial moments.

The first half failed to set the world alight. However, Japan possessed a greater threat in the final third, and took the lead through Daizen Maeda. The striker fired home from close range, after Maya Yoshida latched onto Ritsu Doan's delightful whipped cross. 

In the second half, Croatia started with intent, and they were immediately rewarded. Ivan Perisic latched onto a stunning cross from Dejan Lovren to fire the European country level. The header was powerful and direct, which gave the goalkeeper no chance to save it. 

Croatia continued to dominate the second half, but they were unable to find a winner. The match headed into extra time for the first time this World Cup.

In extra time, little happened, with Kaoru Mitoma coming closest with a powerful shot. With weary legs, both teams failed to threaten their opponents, which led to a penalty shoot-out in Qatar.

In the penalty shoot-out, Croatia took advantage of poor finishing from Japan to secure victory 4-1. Mario Pasalic had the honours of taking the final penalty to send Croatian fans into delight!

  • Story of the Match

Japan made an expected tactical switch to a back three from the opening minute, as Ritsu Doan, Daizen Maeda and Daichi Kamada lead the line.

Meanwhile, Croatia made a double change from their previous match, as Borna Barisic and Bruno Petkovic forced their way into the starting lineup.

Japan started strongly and placed their opponents under early pressure. Shogo Taniguchi came inches away from heading Japan into the lead just three minutes in.

However, it was Croatia that came closest in the opening ten minutes. Ivan Perisic took advantage of Takehiro Tomiyasu's weak back pass, but his powerful shot was saved by Shuichi Gonda. Perisic looked bitterly disappointed to miss such a good chance.

As the first half progressed, Japan became the more dangerous side. Junya Ito continually found space down the right flank, but his final product failed to threaten the Croatian defence. The match was creating a notable trend in the first half, with Croatia having over 60% possession, and The Samurai Blue trying to play on the counter.

The first half ended with a dominant spell of possession from the Asian nation. Kamada had a glorious chance to give his country the lead, but his effort inside the box was scuffed high and wide. However, his miss did not matter, as Maeda gave Japan the lead in the 43rd minute. 

Doan whipped in a superb cross from a short corner which Maya Yoshida latched onto. The ball fell to Maeda, who smashed it into the net to send the Japanese fans into raptures. It was a thoroughly deserved goal for the Asian country at the end of the first half.

In the second half, there was work to do for Croatia, but they remained unchanged at the beginning of the second interval. The 2018 semi-finalists started the half strongly, and their persistence paid off early on.

Fighting Back?

Perisic levelled the scores with a stunning header in the 55th minute. Dejan Lovren whipped in a stunning whipped cross from the right-hand flank, which the veteran latched onto superbly. The winger's powerfull header was unstoppable, and it showed the quality the star man still has! 

Luka Modric then came close to giving the lead to Croatia minutes later, but his stunning shot was superbly saved by Gonda. Substitute Ante Budimir came inches away from sending his fans into delight, however he guided his header inches wide of the right post. The tide was turning at the Al Janoub Stadium, with Croatia dominating the match across the park.

Japan began to fight back, but it was the 2018 semi-finalists who remained on top. As the substitutions arrived, the game changed its dynamic, but it was Perisic who was still at the heart of the match. The winger had another effort fire just wide of the top left corner, after a superb drive forward.

An extra 30

Japan began to lose steam near the end of the 90 minutes. Croatia placed consistent pressure on their opponents, but The Samurai Blue held firm. The match dwindled towards the end of the 90 minutes, and extra time was forced to happen for the first time this tournament. 

As extra time began, both sides remained unchanged despite struggling for fatigue in the second half. In the first fifteen minutes, little happened. Kaoru Mitoma came closest after a superb run and powerful shot, however it was strongly saved by Dominik Livakovic. In general, it seemed almost certain that the match was heading towards penalties after 105 minutes.

Croatia's new look attack for the final fifteen gave them extra energy across the park. Marcelo Brozovic was the only player remaining in the front six that started the match. Despite extra energy, they failed to threaten Gonda in goal, and the match headed towards the dreaded penalty shoot-out. The extra 30 minutes ended with little to report, which led to a nervy penalty shoot-out for both nations.

Takumi Minamino stepped up first, but his penalty was easily saved, before Mislav Vlasic scored Croatia's first. Mitoma continued Japan's trend and missed, before Brozovic gave Croatia a 2-0 lead. Marko Livaja missed Croatia's third penalty to give Japan hope, but that quickly ended when Yoshida missed Japan's fourth penalty.

Mario Pasalic stepped up at the end for Croatia and fired it in to send his fans into raptures! It was a brilliant shoot-out from Croatia, who took advantage of poor finishing from Japan. 

 

Croatia will face the winner of Brazil vs South Korea in the quarter-finals. Meanwhile, Japan can hold their heads high after a sensational World Cup run.

Player of the Match - Ivan Perisic

It was a superb performance from the winger, who scored the crucial equaliser for Croatia. He was at the heart of everything, but weary legs meant he was unable to take part in the shoot-out. The Tottenham Hotspur forward will be crucial to their chances in the next round.

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