Dominik Livakovic, the goalkeeper for Croatia, put on another penalty shootout masterclass and was proud to have continued the legacy of his forebears.
After a 1-1 draw with Japan, Croatia won 3-1 on penalties at Al Janoub Stadium to advance to a quarterfinal matchup against either Brazil or South Korea. Livakovic stopped three of Croatia’s penalties.
Danijel Subasic, who also made three saves when Croatia defeated Denmark at the same stage four years ago in Russia, put forth a similar effort.
“It’s what we do in Croatia,” Livakovic said. “You could see that four years ago. I continue the tradition of my predecessors and I put it down to the analysis we do of the penalty takers.”
Due to a close-range goal from Daizen Maeda, Croatia trailed at the half despite having the better of the first half. Ten minutes into the second half, Ivan Perisic brought his team even, and extra time was unable to separate the two resolute but underpowered teams.
“It’s important to win, but it’s always easier to resolve the game in 90 minutes because penalties are risky,” added Livakovic, who attempted to play down his heroics.
“This time the penalties worked well for us. I don’t think they were difficult ones to save. We did an analysis prior to this match.”
Although his heroics were expected, Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic praised his humble goalkeeper.
“We have a fantastic goalkeeper, he was unbeatable,” said Dalic. “When we started the shootout, I was very confident. He was great in training yesterday and I had no doubt he would demonstrate that again today.
“We had made several substitutions and didn’t have the likes of [Luka] Modric, [Mateo] Kovacic and Perisic on the field but all our problems were resolved by Livakovic.
“He proved to be like Subasic in Russia, history keeps repeating itself.”
Croatia has a strong World Cup record, placing second in 2018 and third in 1998. The Russian team has largely dispersed, and Dalic urged the players of today to leave their own mark.
“This generation is resilient, they don’t give up,” he said. “They reflect the spirit of the Croatian people. We have been through so much pain that the Croatian national team is now a source of pride.
“We had a great generation in 2018, but we now have 18 new players and I told them that this is their chance to make history.”
Japan’s remarkable winning streak came to an end after losses to Germany and Spain. But they failed to reach the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time.
Coach Hajime Moriyasu was ecstatic about his team and denied that they had buckled under the strain.
I don’t think so, no,” he said. “Their goalkeeper was great and the Japanese players that took the penalties were very courageous.
“We obviously wanted to win, but it does not negate the efforts of the players. I think Japanese football can continue to grow.
“We cannot do everything at once, we cannot become superheroes in one go, we need to improve little by little, but Japan is reaching a level where we can play on the world stage.”