Croatia is through to the quarterfinals of the FIFA World Cup after securing a come-from-behind win on penalties against an impressive Japan team at Al Janoub Stadium.
Daizen Maida’s first-half opener was cancelled out by Ivan Perisic as the teams needed penalties to decide the winner where the vastly experienced Croatia triumphed 3-1 with ease.
Buoyed by their win over Germany, Japan decided to go toe-to-toe with the 2018 finalists from the start which resulted in both teams creating opportunities to strike first.
Perisic and Bruno Petkovic missed chances for Croatia with Shūichi Gonda denying the two while Shogo Taniguchi, Daichi Kamada and Maeda went close for Japan at the other end.
Maeda eventually gave Japan a deserved lead in the 43rd minute when Ritsu Doan’s short corner fell into his path and the forward put away the loose ball past Dominik Livaković.
Croatia did not have to wait long for the equaliser as Dejan Lovren crossed an inch-perfect pass for Perisic who headed it past Gonda to restore parity in the 55th minute.
Livakovic was then called to keep Croatia in the contest by denying Wataru Endo and Kaoru Mitoma as the game went to penalties.
The goalkeeper was the difference maker once again during the shootout, denying Takumi Minamino, Kaoru Mitoma and Maya Yoshida while Nikola Vlasic, Marcelo Brozovic and Mario Pasalic scored for Croatia to seal the win.
The loss to Croatia continues a heartbreaking round of 16 for Japan in FIFA World Cup history, having lost at the same stage to Turkey in 2002, Paraguay in 2010 and Belgium in 2018.