The Japan vs Croatia Round of 16 game saw the latter reigning supreme with a 4-2 aggregate victory. Croatia now claims their place in the World Cup 2022 quarter-finals, while Japan heads home.
The third meeting between Japan and Croatia saw goals from Dazien Maeda and Ivan Perisic, as well as extra time and the first penalty shootout of the Qatar tournament.
The Japan vs Croatia starting XI:
Hajime Moriyasu made three changes to the starting XI that beat Spain last week. Takehiro Tomiyasu, Wataru Endo and Ritsu Doan replaced Ao Tanaka, Takefusa Kubo and Kou Itakura. The latter had been suspended due to picking up two yellow cards this tournament.
Croatian head coach, Zlatko Dalic made just two changes to the side that drew against Belgium last week. Borna Barisic and Bruno Petkovic replaced Borna Sosa, who is out with illness, and Marko Livaja.
The first half – Japan break and open the scoreline
Three minutes into Japan vs Croatia and the former had their first chance. Shogo Taniguchi’s close-range header was strong. However, the chance was squandered as Taniguchi failed to find home.
Six minutes later, Croatia had their first opportunity to open the scoreline. A messy mistake from Tomiyasu allowed Perisic a chance at goal. However, the Croatian couldn’t get the ball past Shuichi Gonda.
A pinball moment in the 28th saw another chance for Croatia to capitalise. However, the Japanese defenders eventually cleared it.
After a couple of minutes of danger, Japan broke away. However, the result was that the ball fell back at Croatia’s feet instead of in the back of their net.
However, in the 43rd minute, Japan changed the tide. A well-worked short corner saw Doan whipping the ball into the Croatian penalty zone. Won by Maya Yoshida, he headed it to Maeda, who slotted it into the back of the Croatian net.
Following Japan taking the lead, just two minutes of extra time were added to the game. Croatia was awarded a late corner, however, the short shot from Luka Modric wasn’t enough to see them equalise before the break.
Japan vs Croatia saw the former heading down the tunnel at halftime 1-0 up.
The second half – Croatia equalise, extra time on the horizon
The second half of Japan vs Croatia began with the former pressing much higher up the pitch to advance their 1-0 lead.
However, it was Croatia who found the net first. Lovren swung the ball into the box, but it was Perisic who headed the ball past Gonda.
Perisic’s effort seemed to spark a change in Croatia, who then had another couple of chances in the 63rd and 66th minute. The latter moment, unfortunately, saw substitute Budimir sending the ball wide of the goal, missing a chance for his nation to take the lead.
A plethora of substitutions then peppered the second half. Yuto Nagatomo and Maeda were swapped for Kaoru Mitoma and Takuma Asano. Then, Croatian striker Andrej Kramaric was replaced by Mario Pasalic.
In the 75th, Japan made another substitution with Hiroki Sakai coming on for Daichi Kamada. In the 87th, Doan was replaced by Takumi Minamino.
The first booking of the game took place in the 90th minute. Mateo Kovacic was booked after a poor foul on Junya Ito.
Four minutes of added time was added to Japan vs Croatia’s RO16 game, but it wasn’t long enough for either team to move past the stalemate.
Extra time – first half
Japan may have entered extra time fighting but Croatia managed to clear all danger. This included a close header from Taniguchi in the 92nd minute as well as a mistimed pass between Mitoma and Asano.
Dalic attempted to shake up the game by making a double substitution in the 99th minute. Captain Modric and Kovacic were replaced by Nikola Vlasic and Lovro Majer.
A slow start to the first half of extra time saw both teams leaving the field on the break 1-1.
Extra time – second half
Only two serious moments punctured a mundane second half of extra time. The first was Croatia’s Barisic being booked for a poor challenge, while the second was Majer putting the ball just wide of the Japanese net.
Due to both teams failing to score during the 30 minutes of extra time, a penalty shootout was called to finish the Round of 16 clash.
Penalties – Japan (1) – Croatia (3)
The dreaded penalty shootout saw Croatia landing three of their four shots. Vlasic, Brozovic and Pasalic all found goal while Livaja’s casual penalty backfired as it came off the post.
Heartbreak for Japan as just one of their four strikes was pelted into the back of the net. Asano’s penalty slotted neatly into the Croatian goal, while Minamino, Mitoma and Yoshida all failed to deliver.
Japan vs Croatia ended 2-4 aggregate. This means that after a difficult match, Croatia now heads through to the quarter-finals of the Qatar World Cup. They will either face Brazil or South Korea next week.
However, that does mean that it’s the end of the road for The Samurai Blue. The Japanese men’s team should be extremely proud of themselves. They defeated Germany and Spain in the World Cup group stages.
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