Croatia goalkeeper Dominic Livakovic saved penalties from Takumi Minamino, Kaoru Mitoma and Maya Yoshida before Mario Pasalic netted the winning spot-kick in their 3-1 shootout win over Japan on Monday to reach the 2022 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals.
With the scores deadlocked at 1-1 after an absorbing 90 minutes, Japan’s Kaoru Mitoma went closest in the scrappy half-hour of extra time, forcing Livakovic to parry away his powerful drive.
Daichi Kamada had shot off target after a flowing Japan counter-attack minutes before Daizen Maeda deservedly put them ahead in the 43rd minute, firing home from close range after Ritsu Doan delivered an in-swinging cross into the penalty area.
Croatia forward Ivan Perisic, who was denied by Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda in the opening minutes, pulled them level 10 minutes into the second half after meeting Dejan Lovren’s cross with a powerful header.
Japan had been looking to reach the quarterfinals for the first time but fell short again, just like in 2002, 2010 and 2018. The Asian team lost to Paraguay in a penalty shootout in the round of 16 in 2010.
Croatia, which also reached the semifinals in 1998, will play either Brazil or South Korea next.
The result guarantees at least one more World Cup game for 37-year-old Croatia captain Luka Modric, one of the best midfielders of his generation.
Since 1998, all of Croatia’s knockout matches at a World Cup or European Championship have gone to extra time except for the 2018 World Cup final loss to France.