Croatia Beats Japan on Penalty Kicks and Advances to Quarterfinals

Japan have failed again to reach the last eight at a World Cup finals after being beaten in a penalty shoot-out by the 2018 finalists Croatia.

Dominik Livakovic was Croatia’s hero, saving three of Japan’s four spot-kicks.

The goalkeeper dived left to save Takumi Minamino’s weak opening kick, then to his right to keep out another weak one from Kaoru Mitoma.

Meanwhile Nikola Vlasic and Marcelo Brozovic scored.

Takuma Asano kept Japanese hopes alive and when Marko Livaja hit the post it was 2-1 after three kicks each.

But Livakovic went right, and chose right, again, denying veteran defender Maya Yoshida.

That left Mario Pasalic with the chance to take Croatia through. He took it.

The Blue Samurai, who had been seeking to become the first Asian team to reach the last eight since South Korea in 2002, and only the second to do so on foreign soil after North Korea in 1966, had fallen at the last 16 stage for the fourth time.

Croatia, who had won two shoot-outs on their way to the final four years ago, will meet Brazil or South Korea in the quarter-finals

It was the first match of the finals to go to extra-time and the first to penalties.

In the regulation 90 minutes Daizen Maeda had given Japan the lead in the 43rd minute, the Celtic man firing home from close range after Ritsu Doan delivered an inswinging cross into the penalty area.

Tottenham’s Ivan Perisic levelled with a powerful header from Dejan Lovren’s cross 10 minutes after the interval.

There was plenty of positive play either side of those goals, but too often the final ball was poor and clear chances were rare.

As the game wore on fatigue began to show and though Lovro Majer missed a decent chance in the 120th minute it was no surprise when the tie went to penalties.

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