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FIFA World Cup: Croatia advance to quarterfinals, down Japan 3-1 via penalties
Al Wakrah: Croatia advanced to the quarterfinal stage of the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Qatar after defeating Japan 3-1 via penalties after both sides were levelled 1-1 at the end of scheduled playtime.
Japan earned their first corner of the match in the second minute. A free kick by Ritsu Doan looked dangerous but headed just wide at the far post. In the next minute, Shogo Taniguchi gave the Japanese another chance but the shot was too wide once again. In the 8th minute, Croatia's Ivan Perisic was denied an early close-range goal by goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda. Andrej Kramaric also got his chance, but three Japanese defenders surrounded him and denied him a shoot.
In the first ten minutes, it was Croatia which enjoyed bulk of ball possession but was even with Japan in terms of attacking as both sides registered shots on target.
In the 12th minute, Daizen Maeda entered Croatia's defences but could not connect a cross from Junyo Ito and it was another chance missed.
As time progressed, Japan's aggression seemed to wane and Croatia upped their game drastically. They started registering more shots at the goal, but to no avail. The first 30 minutes of the match were goalless.
Japan got its moment of joy in the 43rd minute when a short corner by them resulted in a goal.
At the end of half-time, the scoreline read 1-0 in favour of the Asian country.
At the resumption of the match, Croatia earned a corner.
Daichi Kamada produced another chance for Japan. In the 46th minute, he tried to double Japan's lead but his shot from 30 yards went over Croatia's crossbar.
Croatia kept making inroads into the Japan's box, chasing an equaliser. Their perseverance met a well-deserved conclusion as Ivan Perisic made the scoreline even. The experienced striker hit his 6th World Cup from 16 yards away with a stunning header. A cross from Dejan Lovren found him and Perisic wasted no time in using his powerful head to restore his side's chances in the 55th minute.
Following that Japan made two more attempts at goal, but could not find the net. Doan and Wataru Endo failed to restore the lead.
Croatia brought a substitute in the 62nd minute. Ante Budimir replaced Bruno Petkovic.
In the 64th minute, Japan made two changes. Kaoru Mitoma and Takuma Asano replaced Yuto Nagatamo and Daizen Maeda and they were desperate to regain the lead.
In the coming minutes, both teams kept taking chances in each other's goals but did not succeed.
At the end of 90 minutes, the scoreline read 1-1 and four minutes of stoppage time were added.
The four minutes of stoppage time could not yield any goal so extra time was given. Croatia clearly had a seeming advantage over their Asian opponent as they had won semifinal back in the 2018 World Cup in extra time. It was up to them to repeat their 2018 heroics and deny Japan their first-ever QF slot.
In the 92nd minute, Japan's Ito took a corner and it was headed wide at near post by Taniguchi. Japan looked more in control as compared to the entire second half. But despite the best of their efforts, none of them could get their second goal. The half-time in extra time was up, with both teams at 1-1.
In the 106th minute, Croatia made two substitutions.
Japan also made a substitution. Ao Tanaka replaced Hidemasa Morita. Japan registered four shots on target in extra time while Croatia hit three. But the deadlock could not be broken.
In the 111th minute, Croatia earned a corner. Goalkeeper Gonda punched away the ball to safety though.
With both teams failing to score a goal, the match was to be decided via penalty shootout.
Japan took the first penalty, but missed it and their second too. Croatia converted their next two penalties, with Nikola Vlasic and Marcelo Brozovic scoring to make it 2-0. Takuma Asano scored one for Japan in their third chance. Livaja missed their third penalty. Yoshida's penalty was saved by Croatian goalie Livakovic. Mario Pasalic scored in Croatia's fourth penalty to make it 3-1 in favour of Croatia.
Croatia advanced to the quarterfinal and Japan was denied their first-ever quarterfinal chance. (ANI)