The third matchday of the Round of 16 games saw Japan take on Croatia at the Al Janoub Stadium in the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Monday, December 5. After a long game that went into extra time, it was ultimately Croatia who came out victorious.
Japan took the lead in the first half, with Daizen Maeda scoring in the 43rd minute to give them an unlikely lead. They were able to hold their lead just 10 minutes into the second half as Ivan Perisic expertly placed his header into the corner to draw the scores level.
Despite some excellent attacking moves from both sides, neither was able to find the back of the net in regulation time. The trend followed in extra time, with the match ultimately ending with the scores tied at one apiece.
The Croatian side came out triumphant in the penalty shootout, scoring three out of their four penalties to ensure victory.
Let's take a look at five hits and flops from the game.
Hit #1 - Ivan Perisic
Ivan Perisic was one of Croatia's heroes on the night as the runners-up from the last edition came back from behind to grab victory against Japan.
Perisic had an excellent outing against the Japanese, most importantly scoring the equalizer just ten minutes into the second half. Dejan Lovren's cross into the box was a tricky one, but Perisic was able to convert his header with outstanding precision.
His goal took his overall tally of goals at World Cups to six, equalling the record of Croatian legend Davor Suker.
Hit #2 - Josko Gvardiol
Josko Gvardiol was a standout performer from Croatia's win over Japan at the Al Janoub Stadium.
Gvardiol has been in sensational form throughout the tournament. He is already on the radar of several European clubs and there is no doubt that his stock will only shoot up further after his performances at the World Cup.
Despite being just 20 years old, Gvardiol displays extraordinary maturity on the pitch. His positioning and composure have turned several heads his way. He was at the very top of his game against Japan, ensuring they scored just one goal on the night.
Hit #3 - Dominik Livakovic
Dominik Livakovic was undoubtedly Croatia's best performer of the night.
The Croatian goalkeeper left it late to impress but won the penalty shootout all by himself. He had a great showing during regulation time as well, making a couple of crucial saves to keep Croatia in the game.
He also saved three out of Japan's four penalties, ensuring the side progressed to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. Livakovic expertly dived to the correct side for three of Japan's penalties, saving two and getting some help from the goalpost in the third. He was Croatia's man of the match without a doubt.
Flop #1 - Bruno Petkovic
Bruno Petkovic put in an underwhelming performance against Japan in the Round of 16 of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Petkovic was deployed as a center-forward but was unable to make his mark in the game. He had a couple of great chances during the game, but failed to capitalize and give his side a much-needed goal.
The Dinamo Zagreb forward has already played in three games this World Cup but is yet to score a goal. His performance against Japan failed to impress, as he was substituted on the hour mark.
Flop #2 - Takumi Minamino
Takumi Minamino failed to contribute to Japan's cause in their loss to Croatia.
The former Liverpool man was brought on as a substitute just before the full-time whistle and was expected to make his mark in the game during extra time. Blessed with great pace and experience under his belt, Minamino was still unable to generate any value for the Japanese.
He did not create any chances and failed to test the keeper as well. To make matters worse, he took Japan's opening penalty and failed to score. His penalty was extremely weak and lacked placement and was easily dealt with by Livakovic.
With over five years of experience in elite European leagues, several fans expected a lot more from the AS Monaco man. His performance was met with dismay from the Japanese, who expected their number 10 to score.
With Croatia ensuring their progress after their nervy win against Japan, all eyes will be on Brazil as they battle South Korea to determine who will face Croatia in the quarter-finals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.