Luka Modric admits Croatia 'can’t do it without drama' after World Cup win over Japan

The 2018 runners-up seal quarter-final spot where they will take on Brazil

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Croatia captain Luka Modric conceded his battle-hardened side “can’t do it without a drama” after they progressed to the World Cup quarter-finals with victory on penalties against Japan on Monday.

The 2018 runners-up triumphed 3-1 in the shoot-out at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, with goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic saving three of Japan’s four spot-kicks.

The match had earlier finished 1-1 in normal time, with Japan taking a first-half lead before Croatia equalised 10 minutes after the interval.

They will now face Brazil in the quarter-finals after the South Americans thrashed South Korea 4-1 in their last-16 match.

“It seems that we can't do it without a drama,” said relieved Croatia captain Modric, who sat out the shoot-out after being substituted on 99 minutes. “It was a very difficult game against a very tough team.

“We showed character when we came back from the deficit … [Livakovic] performed a miracle today. A very tough, exhausting match.”

Croatia went behind moments before half-time when Celtic striker Daizen Maeda pounced on a loose ball inside the penalty area. However, Japan were pegged back in the 55th minute by a stunning header from Ivan Perisic.

In the shoot-out, Livakovic saved Japan’s opening two spot-kicks, from Takumi Minamino and Kaoru Mitoma, before repelling their fourth, from opposition captain Maya Yoshida.

Croatian substitute Mario Pasalic scored the decisive penalty, rendering redundant Marko Livaja's earlier miss from the spot. The defeat represented Japan’s fourth from four World Cup last-16 matches; they have never before advanced to the tournament's quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, six of Croatia’s past seven knockout games at major tournaments have gone to extra time – the only exception being the 2018 final.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, manager Zlatko Dalic said: “We had a fantastic goalkeeper. Today he was great – he saved each of the penalties in a very strong and stable manner.

Croatia midfielder Luka Modric gives a thumb up after their victory over Japan. AFP

“We practised penalties in training yesterday and he made several saves. When he had the penalty shoot-out today, I was assured; yesterday he installed this confidence and I was sure he would show that capacity today.

“We couldn’t be dominant, but we have shown a strength of character. The Japanese might have underestimated us, never do that to Croatia. We are a small nation, but we fight for what we want.”

Dalic's Japanese counterpart, Hajime Moriyasu, pointed to the positives in a campaign in which his side defeated both Spain and Germany to top their group.

“Although the result was not what we expected I told them it does not negate everything we did,” he said.

“We could not break through the Round of 16 and we could not have a new perspective or see a new landscape, but the Japanese team won against Germany and Spain, who have been champions in the World Cup.

“The players showed a new era of Japanese football, and they should use this feeling of being upset and try to win in the next time. In the end, of course we wanted to win and the result is very unfortunate, but it is what it is.

“The players can be confident that they can play on the world stage. They showed how good they can play in such a tournament like the World Cup, and I hope they keep on the same way. I think Japanese football can continue to grow.”

Updated: December 06, 2022, 2:44 AM