Croatia's goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic is celebrated after winning the penalty shootout of the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Japan and Croatia at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. (AP Photo)
Japan took the towards the end of the first half as Daizen Maeda scored from a header. Croatia would also use the same way to equalise, early in the second half. Ivan Perisic scored his 10th goal at major tournaments, surpassing Davor Suker to become Croatia’s top scorer at major events.
Japan’s national team will carry their remarkable momentum – beating both Germany and Japan to top the ‘group of death’ this year – into a difficult test against the talented and experienced Croatian team.
Much of Croatia’s nucleus is made up of the same players that took them through to the final of the 2018 World Cup, including last edition’s Player of The Tournament Luka Modric. Modric remains the X-factor, but their engine-like midfield which also contains Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic, runs the show.
Japan are likely to follow the same blueprint they have followed for the rest of this tournament, staying patient in their structures 5-2-3, not keen on holding much of the ball, and waiting for the right moment to hit on the counterattack.
In that case, Josko Gvardiol, Croatia’s standout performer at the World Cup and one of the most promising defenders in Europe, will play a crucial role in both being switched on in the last line of defence, and progressing the ball as his side builds up from the back. (READ MORE)
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