AL WAKRAH, Qatar ( Associated Press) — Croatia are once again in the final stages of the World Cup, and once again squeezing it to the max.
Goalkeeper Dominik Livkovic helped Croatia beat Japan 3-0 in the round-of-12 shootout on Monday to send the 2018 tournament runners-up to the quarter-finals.
In their march to the final four years ago, Croatia contested every round of the knockout stage in extra time and twice prevailed in penalty shootouts.
“History repeats itself,” beamed Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic.
This time, Mario Pasalic converted the deciding penalty for Croatia after a 1–1 draw after 90 minutes and 30 extra-times.
Levakovic saved shots from Takumi Minamino, Kaoru Mitomo and Maya Yoshida. After the penalty shootout, the Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper held the hand of the Croatian team.
In 2018, Livakovic was the backup goalkeeper for starter Danijel Subasic. He took center stage at the Al Janoub Stadium, diving to the left to save the Japanese’s first penalty by Takumi Minamino. She then leaned to her right to parry Kaoru Mitoma’s shot and then leaned back to her right to save Maya Yoshida’s fourth shot of the shootout.
Pasalik was then responsible for scoring the decisive penalty. The substitutes and the rest of the excited Croats threw in the direction of Livakovic after the ball bounced into the back of the net.
“It’s a Croatian tradition,” said Livkovic. “I continue the tradition.”
The similarities with 2018 didn’t end there. As in every other round match, Croatia had to come from behind against Japan when Daizen Maeda scored from point-blank range in the 43rd.
Ivan Perisic equalized in the 57th minute with a header from Dejan Lovren’s cross from the right.
Japan was trying to qualify for the quarterfinals for the first time, but lost again like in 2002, 2010 and 2018. The Asian team lost to Paraguay on penalties in the round of 16 in 2010.
Croatia, semi-finalists in 1998, would face the winner of the duel between Brazil or South Korea which was played later.
At 37, Croatian captain Luka Modric – one of the best midfielders of his generation – is almost guaranteed one more game at the World Cup.
“It was important to win no matter what,” Modric praised Livkovic’s figures, adding, “He is a great goalkeeper.”
Since 1998, all of Croatia’s knockout matches at the World Cup or Euro have gone to extra time, except for the 2018 World Cup final, which they lost to France.