Croatia spot on again after knocking Brazil out of World Cup

Dalic's side win shoot-out 4-2 to reach last four

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Croatia stunned favourites Brazil to reach the World Cup semi-finals, winning 4-2 on penalties after a nail-biting match finished 1-1 at the end of extra time.

Marquinhos missed the crucial spot-kick in the shoot-out, hitting the post when he had to score to keep Brazil in it. Rodrygo's earlier attempt had been saved by goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic and Croatia converted all four penalties.

It was a remarkable turnaround after Brazil had looked set for victory when Neymar opened the scoring with a wonderful strike midway through extra time that allowed him to equal Pele's Brazilian record of 77 international goals.

But Bruno Petkovic hit back at the other end in the 117th minute for Croatia to force a shoot-out, and Zlatko Dalic's team followed up their win over Japan on penalties in the last round with this memorable victory.

“We are very, very proud,” said Dalic. “It is the second time [in a row] Croatia have been in the semi-finals and the players are going wild.

“This is a victory for Croatian people. A great match. We eliminated the main favourites. This is Croatia – pride, courage, faith and patriotism.”

As they advance to the last four, Brazil will have to wait at least another four years before winning a record-extending sixth title.

Croatia refused to be intimidated by their more illustrious opponents and in the first half successfully stifled most Brazil moves.

Apart from a weak Vinicius Junior shot, Brazil had little else to offer in terms of attack with Neymar off the pace and shut out by a hard-working backline.

It was Croatia who looked sharper, more skilled in their passing game and with a precise game plan, and by the end of the first half they had the upper hand in terms of possession.

Brazil did, however, almost take the lead three minutes after the restart when Josko Gvardiol tried to clear the ball but almost turned it into his own goal.

In a frantic start to the second half, claims for a hand ball by defender Josip Juranovic were shot down following a VAR review before Neymar was sent through by Richarlison in the 55th minute only to have his close-range effort blocked by Livakovic.

The Brazilians, who have now lost four of their last five World Cup quarter-finals all to European opposition, enjoyed a much better start to the second half and came close again in the 66th when Lucas Paqueta was denied by Livakovic.

The Croatia keeper was kept busy and stopped Neymar in the 76th and by that time had more saves in the match (seven) than his Brazil counterpart, Alisson, had in the entire tournament (five).

Livakovic parried another Paqueta shot five minutes later as the few hundred Brazil fans in the stands grew louder and more impatient and the game trickled over to extra time.

Neymar – who would end up leaving the pitch in tears – had fired Brazil into the lead at the end of the first half of extra-time. He worked one-twos with Rodrygo and Lucas Paqueta before rounding goalkeeper Livakovic to score a brilliant goal.

But it did not break Croatia's resistance as the 2018 World Cup finalists hit back.

“It is difficult, but while we are sad life goes on, so we need to lift our heads up,” Thiago Silva said. “I am very proud of the boys, of what we did, but unfortunately that is football.”

The Brazil captain said his side had switched off for Croatia's goal. “I think all of a sudden we lost our concentration,” Silva added.

“We are not used to being hit on the break like that. We became a little disorganised and that is where the goal came from.”

Croatia will now face either Argentina or the Netherlands to try to return to the World Cup final four years after falling at the last hurdle to France.

Five of Croatia's last six matches at World Cups have gone to extra-time, including in its penalty shoot-out win over Japan in the last-16 in Qatar. The team has been successful in eight of its last 10 knockout matches at the tournament.

“Croatia is the best when it's needed. When it matters, Croatia always succeeds. No one should underestimate us,” added Dalic.

“This is not the end, we are moving on. We can achieve a lot.”

Updated: December 09, 2022, 8:20 PM