Aus the dream: ripped off Croatians around penalty hero Dominik Livakovic ended Brazil’s hopes of a sixth World Cup title surprisingly early. The team around superstar Neymar had to admit defeat to the 2018 World Cup runners-up in the quarter-finals after a fighting game on penalties 2-4.
After a 0-0 draw in regulation time, Neymar seemingly shot the Brazilians into the semifinals with his goal in extra time (105th minute+1). But Bruno Petković’s goal (117′) tore the favorites out of all their dreams.
As in the round of 16 against Japan, goalkeeper Livakovic became his team’s savior and saved a Rodrygo penalty, while Marquinhos hit the post. In four of the last five world championships, this round was the end for the Seleção, the last time they were in the final was in 2002.
A possible Superclasico against permanent rival Argentina is also eliminated. The Croatians, who have been so harmless in the tournament so far, are likely to dream of a repeat of 2018, led by former world footballer Luka Modric, who has regained his strength.
Opponents on Tuesday (8:00 p.m. CET, in the FAZ live ticker for the soccer World Cup and on MagentaTV) will be either the Argentines around Lionel Messi or the Netherlands with head coach Louis van Gaal.
The Brazilians started in front of 43,893 spectators at Education City Stadium with the same starting eleven as in the 4-1 gala against South Korea in the round of 16. But it wasn’t made that easy for them.
The Croatians were much more concentrated on the defensive than the Asians. When Brazil had the ball, they usually had 11 players behind them. The record world champion did not initially have any great chances. But the Seleção approached.
Neymar and Co. knew exactly what to expect. Firstly, the routine of superstar Luka Modric and his midfield colleagues Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic. On the other hand, the enormous experience of the entire team.
The Croatians had won seven of their last nine knockout games at World Cups. In all of those nine games they have scored at least one goal. So if anyone knew what was important in these games, it was coach Zlatko Dalic’s team.
In the first half, however, Croatia was almost exclusively concerned with keeping the strong opponent away from their own goal. In the 5th minute, Vinícius Júnior tried a flick for the first time. Fifteen minutes later, Real Madrid’s speed dribbler combined into a promising position with a one-two, but his shot was blocked by a Croatian. A few seconds later, superstar Neymar failed to goalkeeper Livakovic. Croatia did not allow more.
The Croatians’ tactics became clearer and clearer the longer the game went on: don’t allow anything at all in the back and become dangerous up front with a counterattack. And when Croatia became dangerous, it was mainly through passes from Modric or the right flank around full-back Josip Juranovic.
But even that became less. In the second half, Brazil increasingly squeezed their opponents in their own half. Neymar (55th) had a great opportunity to take the lead, but he couldn’t get past Livakovic from a tight angle. An unintentional handball by Juranovic in the penalty area was not punished after a video check.
But Brazil were closing in on the lead and Livakovic was becoming the Croatians’ life insurance policy. After a misunderstanding in the central defense, Lucas Paquetá (66th) was suddenly free in front of the keeper, but couldn’t get past either.
Then it went very quickly via Joker Rodrygo and Richarlison, who was paler this time, but again Livakovic was the winner in a duel with Neymar. The 27-year-old, who became a hero against Japan with three saved penalties, almost single-handedly kept his team in the game after the break. But even the class keeper was powerless against Neymar’s goal from close range in extra time. However, the Croatians were back in the game with Petkovic’s goal.