Neymar after having opened the score at the end of the first extra time, thought he was sending Brazil to the semi-finals of the 2022 World Cup, Croatia managed to equalize three minutes before the final whistle and to win once again in the penalty shootout (1-1, pen 4-2).
Brazil went from a gala first half against South Korea, during which Tite’s players linked wonderful technical moves and honeyed goals, to a very disjointed first 45 minutes against Croatia without inspiration. They were totally neutralized by the Croatians who closed all the spaces. No successful dribbles, no offensive shift arrived at the end and therefore no goal celebrated. On the contrary, it was Croatia, who after 120 intense minutes against Japan, was seen more.
In their usual style, relying on midfielders who know how to do everything on a pitch, the defending world runners-up ran, won duels and made clean exits to go and sting the Brazilians. However, Croatia does not have everything. Up front, they lacked the talent to hurt and finish off counter-attacks. The goalkeeper Alison spent a quiet first half. Without any save to make.
Livaković, Croatia’s savior
After the second half, the Brazilians tried to shift into high gear and press the gas pedal. They had better opportunities to open the score. But Livaković, as a good guardian angel, was always watching out. After brilliantly avoiding a CSC by Gvardiol on a cross from Raphina, the keeper took turns to get the better of Richarlison (54th), Paqueta (65th, 79th), Neymar (76th) and did not give in during the 90 minutes of regulation time. He could not, however, do anything on the genius of Neymar who at the end of the first extra time and after a beautiful one-two, erased it and catapulted the ball into the net.
Neymar had just released 214 million Brazilian fans around the world but Croatia wouldn’t be Croatia if they didn’t equalize. Petkovic did it with the first Croatian shot on target of the game (117th) and sent the two teams to the penalty shootout at the same time. A session that always smiles to Croatia. Livaković, once again heroic, saving Rodrigo’s first shot, allows his team to qualify for the semi-finals. The vice-champions of the world now await another Latin American power house Argentina of Lionel Messi.