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Livakovic's heroics applauded as Croatia enter Qatar World Cup 2022 quarter-finals; Japan win hearts

Croatia booked its place in the Qatar World Cup 2022 quarter-finals after beating Japan on penalties 1-1 (3-1) in the round of 16 on Monday. Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic's historic heroics grabs the headlines, while Japan's spirit wins hearts of football fans.

football Dominik Livakovic heroics applauded as Croatia enter Qatar World Cup 2022 quarter-finals; Japan wins hearts snt
First Published Dec 5, 2022, 11:56 PM IST

Croatia eliminated giant killers Japan in a penalty shootout 1-1 (3-1) on Monday in their round of 16 clash after the first match went to extra-time at this Qatar World Cup 2022. Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic was the hero for Zlatko Dalic's side as he saved three of Japan's four penalties in the shootout, ensuring the 2018 runners-up enter the quarter-finals of the showpiece event.

When Ivan Perisic stole the ball from Takehiro Tomiyasu at the corner of the box, Croatia was almost ahead. However, Perisic took too long to release the shot and ended up shooting from a tight angle, which rebounded into a goalmouth scramble and ultimately resulted in nothing. Junya Ito whipped in a dangerous cross as Japan's response, but neither Daizen Maeda nor Yuto Nagatomo was able to get on the end of it inside the box.

Also read: Deepika Padukone to unveil Qatar World Cup 2022 trophy ahead of grand finale on Dec 18: Reports

As halftime drew near, Japan really began to find their footing, creating several chances to score but falling just short of the decisive goal to put them in front. Then, from a corner, Maeda finally broke through with a left-footed finish.

Following the break, Croatia controlled the ball for the most part before Perisic, seemingly out of nowhere, headed in a cross from Dejan Lovren to tie the score.

After swiftly tying the game, veteran Luka Modri blasted a stunning strike from a distance that goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda narrowly missed tipping over the bar.

However, neither team was able to break the deadlock, and after normal time ended with a score of 1-1, the game entered extra time for the first time in this competition.

After a tentative first session, Kaoru Mitoma went on his own and launched a long shot to sting Livakovic's gloves. Up until Lovro Majer's wide-open shot in the final seconds of the second period of extra time, neither team had a clear-cut opportunity. As a result, penalties were called.

Japan took the first penalty shoot. Takumi Minamino's attempt was saved comfortably by Livakovic. Croatia then converted their first penalty as Nikola Vlasic comfortably placed the ball in the net. Kaoru Mitoma then failed to hit the target as the situation grew tense for Japan. Croatia's Marcelo Brozovic scored a perfect goal from the penalty spot to give his side their second goal. After two failed attempts, Japan finally hit the target and got their first goal of the penalties. Takuma Asano brilliantly unleashed the ball into the right post. After Marko Livaja casually hit the post with a side-footed shot, Maya Yoshida then made Japan's third error. Mario Pasalic's attempt from Croatia's fourth penalty earned them a spot in the quarter-final. The 2018 runners-up will not face the winner of South Korea vs Brazil clash.

Croatian goalie and man of the match Dominik Livakovic is now the third goalkeeper to make three saves in a single World Cup penalty shootout after Portugal's Ricardo in 2006 versus England and Croatia's Danijel Subasic versus Denmark in 2018.

"So close to a major upset! Japan took Croatia all the way to penalties but a hattrick of penalty stops makes Livakovic the hero!" noted one user on Twitter, while another added, "The agony and the ecstasy of World Cup football. So joyous for the remarkable footballing nation that is Croatia: Dominik Livakovic, take a bow. So cruel for the equally remarkable sporting nation of Japan. They played their heart out in this match. What a spectacle it's been."

Also read: Messi opens up about Argentina's chances of winning Qatar World Cup 2022; reveals 3 other top contenders

Here's a look at how football enthusiasts lauded Livakovic's heroics and Japan's spirited show at Qatar World Cup 2022:

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