Croatia have broken Japanese hearts.
The 2018 World Cup’s runners-up will consider themselves incredibly fortunate to still be in this year’s prestigious tournament.
The Europeans, who were drawn against Japan in the competition’s Round of Last 16, started Monday afternoon’s game poorly.
The Japanese national team flew out of the blocks and could have been several goals up within the first half.
However, holding firm, even though Celtic’s Daizen Maeda opened the game’s scoring just minutes before half-time, Croatia managed to remain resolute.
Wide-attacker Ivan Perisic dragged his nation back on level terms in the second half by netting a bullet header.
However, with both nations unable to claim a late winner, the game, which was the first of the tournament to go to extra time, remained level at one-all for the full 120 minutes.
Setting up a nail-biting penalty shootdown, the Croatians, who had the much more experienced squad, even though Luka Modric and Perisic had already been subbed off, were best positioned to progress, and they did not disappoint.
Heartbreak for Japan came from the fact they scored just one of four kicks with Monday’s opponents netting three of their four spot kicks.
Japan’s Takumi Minamino was the first player to make the walk but failed to beat goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic. Nikola Vlasic then converted before Kaoru Mitoma missed his country’s second attempt.
Marcelo Brozovic made it 2-0 to the Croatians before Japan’s Takuma Asano pulled one back. However, it wasn’t enough because even though Marko Livaja missed, Maya Yoshida succumbed to the pressure and also failed to score. The winning kick fell to Mario Pasalic, who converted expertly.
Croatia will now play the winner of Brazil vs South Korea in the quarter-finals. The South American’s Last 16 knockout game, which is the second game of the day, is set to kick off later this evening at 7 p.m (UK time).
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