Croatia endured a grueling two hours during their FIFA World Cup quarter-finals before taking down Brazil with penalties to make it to the semifinals for the second time in a row.
It can be difficult to describe. In other words, how would you describe a match of 120 minutes that was played to the favor of a team whose only shot occurred at the end of the game in the 116th minute? The goal was enough to send the game to the tie-breaker for the second time in a row match for Croatia. Outside of the 4 million residents in Croatia, the Baltic nation, only a few were apprehensive about playing the five-time champions Brazil who dominated South Korea 4-1 before reaching Al Rayyan for the FIFA World Cup quarterfinals.
It was the same aggression of Brazil that was able to find a way through the water-tight Croatian defense, which was defended by an experienced midfield that included Luka Modric Mario Brozovic, and Mateo Kovacic. However, all of Neymar’s skill with the ball as well as Vinicius Jr’s quick runs, and Anthony’s tricks were able to score just one goal in the game even though they had 11 shots at goal.
The crowd of raucous fans of the Education City Stadium had to wait until the 105th minute for Neymar to smash the ball into the net after he rounded off Dominique Livakovic. He cut through the Croatian defense by playing back-to-back one-twos with a pair of teammates to create a goal from the ashes.
It appeared impossible for Croats to make it back into the game, as their legs seemed exhausted after a string of marathon matches in the knockout phase.
However, one can feel that Zlatko Dalic’s team will get one final bite of the cherry after they’ve time and time again demonstrated the extra time during the World Cups over the span of four years.
The equalizer came after 11 minutes and was not as stunning as the first goal. Bruno Petkovic’s shaky left-footed shot took Marquinho’s turn to beat shot-stopper, Alisson Becker, before bouncing into the net. The celebration following the goal had none of the energy of the first goal or even more so the fans sporting white and red cheques exploded in rage when the game was forced to the penalty box.
In the end, a game that was late in the penalty period already caused problems for Brazil and the momentum was slowly being lost. It could be an error on Brazil coach Tite’s behalf when he opted to send the 21-year-old Rodrygo for the opening penalty in the game against Dominik Livakovic. Croatia’s star of the evening by securing nine goals. Rodrygo was unable to sell a fake dummy to the goalkeeper who was able to jump to his left side to block a badly-placed penalty.
It was evident that Livakovic was in the area of the goal on the evening that it was clear that woodwork worked to his advantage as well. After conceding two goals Livakovic watched Marquinhos strike him in the wrong direction, but struck the post from his right. The defender watched as the ball bounce off in shock as Brazil’s biggest fear became a reality.
Modric Is still the midfield general
at 37 Luka Modric isn’t the midfielder that he once was, but the footballer with street smarts that has always been The 2017 Ballon d’Or winner showed he is able to save his energy to play more than 200 hours in the period of four days.
The goal in the 116th minute came with a little luck, but it was also a result of the most powerful Croatian footballer who allowed Nikola Vlasic free for a counter-attack even though he appeared exhausted and shaky while avoiding the rough Brazilian attack.
Modric played in the middle of things right from the beginning during the period when Croatia took on Brazil during the opening 20 minutes. Modric together with Brozovic as well as Kovacic dominated Brazil’s midfield, which included Neymar, Casemiro, and Lucas Paqueta.
If only Croatia had the ability in front of the ball to take advantage of the chances to score because playing two hours of soccer prior (four days prior against Japan) was a strain on the aging Croatian midfield. Their attack was a complete stoppage throughout the second half as youthful Brazil attacking took over the game. Modric was the man in charge in the field and had astonishing 91 percent passing precision!
Neymar: Big night, big goal!
Neymar has been playing in a modest World Cup by his standard as the player who was once expected to become the star of the tournament is now a small blip in the rich Brazil football history, with little or no international recognition to his name until his 30th birthday, playing with the Selecao.
But this PSG player, who was featured as a midfielder during Brazil’s World Cup campaign, certainly made his mark in the book of history because he beat the all-time great Pele’s national side score of 77. This is a FIFA record that isn’t acknowledged as such by the Brazilian football association, which includes Pele’s other 18 goals scored for the national team in friendly matches against other clubs.
Neymar who scored on the penalty spot against South Korea a few days ago proved the coach’s decision to put his midfield position as Neymar exploded into the action at the end of the extra time. In the middle of the field for a short time, Neymar played a one-two with Rodrygo to put his Croatian midfield in disarray and then he did the same thing to their defense with an additional one-two against Paqueta and putting his right in the front in front of goal. Neymar’s striker’s instincts took over and he smashed through right-back Borna Sosa as he wrapped Livakovic again before launching his shot into the top of the net while Sosa tried to protect the goal.
No Brazil vs Argentina
Is the sole time to reflect on the agony of the Brazilians and the loss resulting in the long-awaited semifinal match between the two rivals who are most hated from South America is now out of reach? This will put more into the wounds of the Selecao supporters who were disappointed that Lionel Messi’s Argentina did manage to keep their cool during a shootout with the Netherlands to make it to the final.
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