Croatia versus Japan match of the round of 16 became the first knockout match to play an additional 30 minutes in Qatar. It later proceeded to penalty shootouts since the deadlock between both refused to break even after 120 minutes of play.
While the Japanese had an advantage when the play proceeded to extra 30 minutes of the game owing to their young and energetic players, the edge clearly shifted to the Croatian side as soon as the game moved to penalty shootouts.
This is due to the overwhelming amount of experience the Croatian team holds in playing such significant tournaments under pressure, which the inexperienced and young Japanese team could not seem to play under and missed a golden opportunity to proceed into the quarterfinals.
The match was dominated by Japan in the first half of the game, with Daizen Maeda netting a fantastic goal and providing a lead for the Japanese in the 43rd minute. However, this lead lasted only a short time, just like every other 1-0 lead in the game of football.
Ivan Perisic scored an equalizer for the Croatians just 10 minutes after the half time into the second of the match and clearly dominated the whole second half. However, their awakening in second half didn’t do much throughout the game because the Japanese were evenly matched.
Japan’s defence, although with loopholes, provided little space for the Croatian attacking units to operate, resulting in the Croatians failing to ride the hype of their first goal and score second or third and firm their grip into the quarterfinals.
Deadlocked game decided on penalties
The deadlock of 1-1 could not be broken by either side even after additional injury times, providing them with another 30 minutes of decisive play. Croatia was seen to lose their edge in the last 30 minutes after their best players, Modric, Kovacic, etc., were benched.
But even the extra 30 minutes failed to conclude the match, so the game proceeded into a penalty shootout. All of it depends on the goalkeepers of both teams.
This was the moment when the inexperience of the Japanese team was clearly visible, along with the apparent difference in class of players between the teams, which took Croatia to the Quarterfinals.
The end of the match came sooner than expected in a penalty shootout; Dominic Livakovic, the Croatian goalkeeper, gave a spectacular performance with three fantastic saves; he became the first goalkeeper in the history of the World Cup to save the first two penalties in a World Cup shootout.
In the end, the experience of the Croatians told the match, with Japan’s Asano being the only one to score and all the rest being saved by the super Livakovic. On the other hand, the Croatians scored on three attempts, failing at the hands of Gonda only once.