Croatia knock out favourites Brazil on penalties

Brazil were knocked out of the 2022 World Cup at the quarter-final stage after losing to Croatia on penalties in the most dramatic fashion.

Croatia settled into the game well with Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic dominating the first-half midfield battle.

Josip Juranovic, seemingly spotted by Vinicius Jr early on as a defensive weak point, was an attacking force with a number of bombing runs forward, one after 12 minutes almost seeing him apply a finishing touch to a fine Mario Pasalic cross.

Pasalic’s presence in Croatia’s front three helped break up Brazil’s flow as he dropped deep to target Neymar.

On 22 minutes, the South Americans showed a glimpse of threat as Josko Gvardiol expertly blocked Vinicius’ shot and Neymar placed an effort down the throat of the goalkeeper.

Dominik Livakovic stood strong later in the half to catch a Neymar free-kick that tickled the wall in what was a rare moment of first-half impetus from Brazil.

Tite’s side came out with more intent in the second period, almost forcing Gvardiol into netting an own goal as Livakovic made a fine save.

Neymar broke through one-on-one after some fine hold-up work by Richarlison on 55 minutes, placing a tame shot straight at the keeper.

Brazil threw on Antony and Rodrygo as they looked to gradually ramp up their pressure on the Croatia goal, Lucas Paqueta going close next.

On 76 minutes, the otherwise subpar Neymar broke free once more down the left channel to test Livakovic, who made himself big to once again deny the Paris Saint-Germain forward.

Extra time was required as Croatia quelled the late pressure, seeing out their fifth-straight draw in World Cup knockout ties – having won the previous four.

A nervy first 15 minutes was punctured in trademark samba style as the ball broke for Neymar in the box and he danced around Livakovic before firing into the roof of the net.

The goal broke the deadlock and sent one of the great footballing nations wild, their talisman equalling Pele’s 77-goal record for Brazil at the most crucial of moments.

And yet, Croatia came rallying back with Bruno Petkovic’s deflected shot after 117 minutes securing the most dramatic of levellers.

Croatia were perfect with all four penalties after Rodrygo missed his opening effort and Marquinhos hit the post with Brazil’s fourth – extending their wait for a World Cup trophy to at least 24 years.

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