June 3, 2023

The 2018 World Cup finalists have eliminated Japan from the World Cup Round 16 after the two sides failed to record a win in regulation time. 

Croatia went down 1-0 in the first courtesy a strike from Japanese striker Daizen Maeda in the 43rd minute. This was as a result of the Japanese enjoying some free flow passing and the Croatians failing to mount a strong defense to stop their attack. 

Croatia, who have been mostly tipped by football Pundits to have an easy ride with the Japanese, had to quickly revise their notes and strategize to find their way back into the game. The two sides went into the break with Japan leading. 

Soon after the recess, the Croatians made their intentions clear to equalize and get the winning goal. However, the Japanese were not an easy nut to crack. 

Croatian captain Luka Modrić saw his wonderful outside the foot drive parried over the crossbar to corner at the early stages of the second half. In the 55th minute, Ivan Perisić beautifully headed home Dejan Lovren’s cross to draw Croatia on level. Perisić’s equalizer was his 6th goal at the World Cup becoming one of the best scorers for Croatia in the history of the World Cup. 

None of the teams seemed to be satisfied with a draw since a draw will mean they will have to go to extra time. Nonetheless, the two sides could not convert the few chances that came their way and ended the 90 minute 1-1.

Croatia celebrate Perisić’s equalizer

Referee Ismail Elfath from the United States of America then signaled the two sides to get prepared for extra time of 30 minutes, 15 minutes for each half. At this point any mistake from any team leading to a goal might be the end so the two sides were very Conservative as they approached the first half and the second of the extra time cautiously. 

None of the teams could score in the extra time so the referee blew his whistle and brought the game to an end. The game had to be decided by penalties. 

Takumi Minamino saw his first kick saved by goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic. Croatia took advantage and had two of their players Nikola Vlasic and Marcelo Brosovic converting theirs beautifully to give Croatia a 2-0 lead after the second kick from the Japanese was also wasted. 

Croatia missed their third kick but Mario Pasalic converted the fourth kick to give Croatia a 3-1 victory over their Japanese counterparts. 

Croatia were in the finals of the World Cup in 2018 and it took France who were absolutely unplayable at that World Cup to deny Croatia winning. A World Cup success having been part of Croatia history and the best they have ever achieved was that 2018 finals. They would want to rewrite the history of their country and win a World Cup for them. 

The task of winning the World might be very difficult but not impossible. They will face Brazil, one of the countries who have been predicted to win this year’s World Cup. 

Croatia has been to the World Cup six times. Their first ever appearance was in 1998 where they became third. In 2002 and 2006, they were omitted in the group stage. They also failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. They qualified for 2014 and could not even make it out of the group. But in 2018, they were able to surprise the whole world by heading all the way to the finals. 

Skipper of the side Luka Modrić has announced this will be his last World Cup for his country and they would like to win this year’s World Cup to bid him farewell.