Dominik Livakovic became Croatia’s newest World Cup hero on Monday as they defeated Japan 3-1 from the penalty spot to defeat Japan after a tiresome 1-1 draw at Al Janoub Stadium.
To advance Croatia to the quarterfinals, goalkeeper Livakovic turned away penalty kicks from Takumi Minamino, Kaoru Mitoma, and Maya Yoshida.
Croatia has now triumphed in each of their three World Cup knockout matches that have gone all the way thanks to the saves of Danijel Subasic, who also saved three penalties in a shootout in the last-16 during a run to the final in Russia four years ago.
The result was a little harsh on Japan, who had led through Daizen Maeda before Ivan Perisic equalized, but neither side impressed ahead of a round-of-16 match against either Brazil or South Korea.
An entertaining start did not foreshadow what was to come. At one end, Shogo Taniguchi headed wide, and Perisic was denied, but there was no other clear-cut chance until the opener two minutes before halftime.
Ritsu Doan’s cross from a short corner found its way to the center of the area, where Maya Yoshida’s attempted shot ended up teeing up Maeda for a close-range finish.
Although Ante Budimir quickly nodded off target, chances were few and far between, and Lovro Majer dragged wide with the final kick of extra time to send the game to penalties.
Japan’s first two attempts were saved by Livakovic, with his save from Mitoma particularly impressive, and Croatia could cruise through even with Marko Livaja clipping a terrible effort against the post.
Croatia’s possible next fixtures
Croatia can look forward to facing either Brazil or South Korea in the first quarter-final at Education City Stadium on Friday.