Croatia reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Monday with a dramatic 3-1 penalty shoot-out win over Japan after a tense last-16 clash ended 1-1.
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.
Croatia now face either Brazil or South Korea in the last eight and continued midfield icon Luka Modric’s stay at his fourth and likely final World Cup after Dominik Livakovic saved three of Japan’s weak penalties.
“They gave us a hard game, but we knew that would be the case, it’s not coincidence that they beat Germany and Spain,” said Nikola Vlasic.
“We had more chances and I think we deserved to win.”
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 them top 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.
“The players showed us the future, a new era of Japanese football,” Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said.
“We beat Germany, we beat Spain… If we take confidence in that, and if we think about overtaking these teams rather than just catching up, the future is bright.”