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World Cup soccer: Croatia edges Japan via penalty kicks, advances to quarterfinals

Croatia will meet Brazil or South Korea in the quarterfinals of the 2022 World Cup. Photo by Abir Sultan/EPA-EFE
Croatia will meet Brazil or South Korea in the quarterfinals of the 2022 World Cup. Photo by Abir Sultan/EPA-EFE

Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Goalie Dominik Livakovic made three key saves in a penalty kick shootout and Mario Pasalic netted the game-winner to lead Croatia to a victory over Japan in a World Cup Round of 16 match Monday in Al Wakrah, Qatar.

Croatia and Japan played to a 1-1 draw through regulation and two scoreless 15-minute periods of extra time at Al Janoub Stadium.

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Croatia, the runner-up at the 2018 World Cup, will meet Brazil or South Korea in the quarterfinals. Japan was attempting to advance past the Round of 16 for the first time in the history of the men's World Cup.

Striker Daizen Maeda gave Japan a 1-0 lead with a score in the 43rd minute. Fellow striker Ivan Perisic equalized for Croatia in the 55th minute.

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Nikola Vlasic, Marcelo Brozovic and Mario Pasalic scored for Croatia in the penalty session. Takuma Asano made Japan's only successful attempt of the shootout.

Both sides threatened throughout the first half. Japan finally drew first blood with its first on-target attempt with Maeda beating Livakovic just before the end of the first half.

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Fellow striker Ritsu Doan received a pass off a corner kick to set up the first score. He then fired in a cross, which sailed through the box and was tapped down by center back Maya Yoshida.

Maeda then ran in and hit the ball with his left boot. The shot went into the right side of the net, just out of the reach of Livakovic.

Perisic equalized about 10 minutes into the second half. Brozovic hit a short pass to fullback Dejan Lovren at the start of that sequence. Lovren then bent a long cross toward the top of the box.

Perisic wedged himself between several defenders and jumped to get his head on the feed. His attempt bounced just inside the right post, beating Japan goalie Shuichi Gonda in the 55th minute.

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Neither team found the net again for the remainder of regulation, prompting extra time. Japan went into a defensive posture to start the first extra frame. That forced Croatia to use long balls inside of gaining chemistry with short passes.

Japan held a long possession with several attempts on the Croatian goal in the 105th minute, but couldn't convert. Croatia dominated possession in the second period of extra time, which also ended scoreless and resulted in the shootout.

Livakovic saved Takumi Minamino's first attempt of the penalty kick session. Croatian Nikola Vlasiic then stepped up to the line and blasted a shot into the left side netting for a 1-0 edge.

Livakovic stepped up once again with another save of an attempt from Japan's Kaoru Mitoma.

Marcelo Brozovic followed with a shot past Japan's Gonda for a 2-0 Croatia edge. Japan's Takuma Asano cut into the lead with another successful attempt on the next rotation in the shootout.

Croatian Marko Livaja hit the post on the next try, but Livakovic followed with his third time and final save of the shootout, denying Yoshida.

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Mario Pasalic then calmly stepped up to the line and blasted Croatia's final attempt into the left side of the net to end the game.

Croatia will face Brazil or South Korea at 10 a.m. EST Friday at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan. Brazil and South Korea kick off their Round of 16 match at 2 p.m. Monday in Doha.

The winner of the Croatia versus Brazil-South Korea match will face the Netherlands or Argentina in the semifinals.

Fans cheer on World Cup contenders in Qatar

A Morocco fan supports his team while wearing a costume during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Semi-Final match between Morocco and France at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, on December 14, 2022. Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI | License Photo

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