Croatia eliminate Japan in tough match

Croatia needed penalties to advance from the World Cup against Japan.


All the most technically qualified teams at the weekend confirmed their favouritism in the first half of the round of 16 at this World Cup without the need for extra time and a penalty shootout.

On Monday, Croatia were tasked with confirming the trend of quarter-finals being made up only of teams from South America and Europe, but the challenge against Japan was one of the toughest for European teams.

Croatia came into the game with changes from the group stage. Bruno Petkovic took charge of the attack for the first time in this World Cup, leaving Livaja on the bench. Kramaric remained as the second striker and Barisic took the place of Borna Sosa.

Japan also made a few changes, with Ito and Doan together in a 3-4-2-1, the most common formation in the second half. Morita and Endo occupied the centre of the field and Tomiyasu started for the first time.

The Croatians had more control of possession at the start and tried to impose an attacking rhythm on Japan, once again using a low-pressing strategy to create more danger in the counter-attacks.

However, Japan quickly changed their strategy and became aggressive, taking the comfort of possession away from the Croatians by using the speed of Junya Ito down the right. Ito’s speed on the right wing, alternating more direct runs with long possessions, controlled the game and opened the scoring towards the end of the first half.

However, Croatia went on to equalise with Perisic executing the header movement perfectly, taking advantage of a rare moment of free space on the edge of the box.

With the score level, the Croatians were more comfortable in attack and took advantage of the technical errors made by the Japanese due to growing nerves.

However, with physical exhaustion evident in both teams (including in extra time), Croatia advanced to the quarter-finals only through a penalty shoot-out, mainly due to the lack of quality in the kicks executed by the Japanese players.

Croatia enters the quarterfinals as favourites to lose against Brazil, mainly due to their slow defensive transitions, one of the main weapons of manager Tite. It is very difficult to imagine the Croatians resisting 120 minutes with Neymar, Paquetá, Vinícius Júnior and Richarlison in the offensive field.

However, set pieces remain one of the biggest weaknesses of the Brazilian team in the current cycle, offering chances for Croatia to try to surprise.

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