Croatia progressed into the World Cup quarterfinals after winning a penalty shootout over Japan on Monday following a hard-fought 1-1 draw in regulation time.
Japan could easily have been ahead within three minutes when Shogo Taniguchi glanced a header wide from point-blank range, and 10 minutes later Daizen Maeda came close to turning in Junya Ito’s brilliantly placed low ball from the right flank.
Daizen Maeda gave Japan the lead at the Al Janoub Stadium just before half-time when he pounced following a deep free-kick into the opposing penalty box. Croatia hit back through a super header from Ivan Perisic on 55 minutes to set up a tense final half hour, although neither side could find a winner inside 90 minutes, nor in extra-time.
Mario Pasalic struck the winning penalty to send Croatia through after Ivan Perisic had pulled Croatia level in the 55th minute of normal time following Daizen Maeda’s opener for Japan just before the break.
Japan’s bid to reach the last eight for the first time in their history came to a crushing end after another display of the sort which saw off Spain and Germany on their way to topping Group E.
However they could not claim one more big European scalp in the shape of the 2018 finalists and go home in the second round, as they did four years ago, after having three of their penalties saved.
Croatia now face e Brazil in the last eight and continued midfield icon Luka Modric’s stay at his fourth and likely final World Cup.