It was a fast start to the game, with both sides having early sights of goal. First, Wataru Endo picked out Shono Taniguchi with a cross, but he could only head wide.
Down the other end, a mistake by Takehiro Tomiyasu presented Ivan Perisic with a big chance, but his effort was saved.
Both sides continued to attack, although the defences were coming out on top. Daichi Kamada found himself with some space in the box but skewed his shot wide when he ought to have hit the target.
The deadlock was broken just before half-time, and it was Japan who went in front. Ritsu Yoan’s excellent cross was knocked down by Maya Yoshida into the path of Daizen Maeda, who slammed home from close range.
Croatia came out on top in the second half and grabbed an equaliser shortly after the break. Dejan Lovren’s cross found Perisic, and the winger expertly directed his header into the bottom corner.
Japan almost hit back immediately, with Endo having a strike from distance turned over the crossbar by Dominik Livakovic. Shuichi Gonda performed similar heroics to keep out Luka Modric’s effort.
Moments later, Zlatko Dalic’s men had a glorious chance to take the lead when Andrej Kramaric’s deflected shot fell kindly for Ante Budimir, but he headed wide.
Neither side was able to grab a decisive goal before the full-time whistle, taking the game to extra time.
In the first half of the extended period, Kaoru Mitoma came close to netting one of the goals of the tournament.
The Brighton & Hove Albion man picked up the ball in his own half, beat several opponents, and cut inside before unleashing a rasping shot straight at Livakovic.
In the dying seconds, Lovro Majer had an opportunity to snatch the victory, but could only drag his shot wide from the edge of the box. The final whistle went, ensuring the first penalty shoot-out of the tournament.
Takumi Minamino was the first to take but his effort was saved by Livakovic. Nikola Vlasic took next, and he blasted his penalty into the bottom corner.
Next up was Mitoma, who also had his shot saved. Marcelo Brozovic had the opportunity to give his side a commanding lead, and he placed it down the middle.
Takuma Asano was up next, knowing that a miss would give Croatia the chance to win it. He calmly converted his for Japan’s first goal of the shoot-out. He was followed by Marko Livaja, but he could only place his penalty against the post.
Yoshida stepped up for Japan, but Livakovic was once again there to deny him. Mario Pasalic had the chance to win it for Croatia, and he found the bottom corner to send his side into the quarter-finals.
The win takes Croatia into the quarter-finals for the third time in their history. They will face either Brazil or South Korea in the next round.
Shuichi Gonda (6/10) – Made a couple of impressive saves in normal time. Unable to make a save in the shoot-out.
Junya Ito (6/10) – Provided some threat down the right. Could have done better defensively.
Takehiro Tomiyasu (5/10) – Struggled to deal with Perisic. Made an early mistake that almost led to a goal.
Maya Yoshida (6/10) – Defended well enough during open play and got an assist. Had his penalty saved in the shoot-out.
Shono Taniguchi (7/10) – Managed to keep Petkovic and Budimir fairly quiet. Missed an early chance to take the lead.
Yuto Nagatomo (7/10) – Defended fairly well and offered loads of energy going forward. Substituted in the second half.
Wataru Endo (8/10) – Gave everything at the heart of midfield. Battled relentlessly and showed some quality on the ball.
Hidemasa Morito (6/10) – Came up against a strong midfield and held his own. Worked hard and battled well.
Ritsu Doan (7/10) – Japan’s main source of creativity for much of the game. Put in an excellent cross in the lead up to Maeda’s goal.
Daizen Maeda (7/10) – Caused plenty of problems and took his goal well.
Daichi Kamada (6/10) – Made things difficult for Croatia’s defence. Missed a very good chance in the first half.
Takuma Asano (6/10)
Kaoru Mitoma (5/10)
Takumi Minamino (4/10)
Hiroki Sakai (5/10)
Ao Tanaka (5/10)
Dominik Livakovic (9/10) *MOTM* – Made a couple of important saves during the match. Saved three penalties out of four in the shoot-out.
Josip Juranovic (5/10) – Had some difficulty at the back. Long throws provided some threat.
Dejan Lovren (7/10) – Put in a brilliant cross for the equaliser. Solid and decent on the ball.
Josko Gvardiol (7/10) – Had an interesting battle with the Japanese front line. Didn’t let much past him.
Borna Barisic (5/10) – Given a tough time by Kamada. Offered very little in attack.
Marcelo Brozovic (6/10) – Didn’t do enough to maintain control in midfield. Took his penalty well.
Luka Modric (7/10) – Wasn’t at his best in the first half, although still showed flashes of brilliance. Had more influence after the break.
Mateo Kovacic (6/10) – He had a few nice touches but couldn’t control the game to the best of his ability.
Andrej Kramaric (5/10) – Couldn’t make much of an impact in the game. Substituted on 68 minutes.
Bruno Petkovic (5/10) – Kept fairly quiet by Japan’s backline. Substituted early in the second half.
Ivan Perisic (8/10) – By far Croatia’s most threatening player going forward. Scored a brilliant header.
Ante Budimir (5/10)
Mario Pasalic (7/10)
Nikola Vlasic (7/10)
Lovro Majer (6/10)
Marko Livaja (4/10)
Mislav Orsic (5/10)
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