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World Cup soccer: Croatia upsets Brazil, clinches semifinal spot

Brazil's Neymar Jr. (R) scored what appeared to be the game-winning goal in extra time, before Croatia rallied and won in penalty kicks in a 2022 World Cup quarterfinal Friday in Al Rayyan, Qatar. Photo by Neil Hall/EPA-EFE
Brazil's Neymar Jr. (R) scored what appeared to be the game-winning goal in extra time, before Croatia rallied and won in penalty kicks in a 2022 World Cup quarterfinal Friday in Al Rayyan, Qatar. Photo by Neil Hall/EPA-EFE

Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Croatia overcame a 1-0 deficit in extra time and edged top-ranked Brazil in a penalty shootout to earn an upset victory over the tournament favorites in a 2022 World Cup quarterfinal Friday in Al Rayyan, Qatar.

Soccer sensation Neymar Jr. appeared to score the game-winner in the 106th minute at Education City Stadium, before the Croatians stole the victory with an equalizer and 4-2 edge in the shootout.

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"It was something special against the favorite," Croatian defender Dejan Lovren told Fox.

"We said in the last half of the last 15 minutes, don't stop believing. Everyone said that. We knew we would come back, no matter how hard it was in some moments. We are really special."

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Croatia, the No. 12 team in the world, will face the Netherlands or Argentina in the Qatar 2022 semifinals Tuesday at Lusail Stadium in Lusail.

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Striker Bruno Petkovic equalized in the 117th minute. Nikola Vlasic, Lovro Majer, Luka Modric and Mislav Orsic followed with successful attempts in the penalty kick shootout.

Croatian goalie Dominik Livakovic, who provided several brilliant stops in regulation, saved Rodrygo's first attempt for Brazil.

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Marquinhos drilled the post on Brazil's final attempt, resulting in the loss. He then collapsed to the ground, overcome with emotion from the setback.

The top-ranked Brazilians advanced past the Round of 16 in each of the last eight editions of the World Cup. They own a record five World Cup titles.

The Croatians finished second at the 2018 World Cup.

Croatia logged just three shots, with none on target, over the first 45 minutes. Brazil totaled five shot attempts, with three on frame.

Brazilian speedsters Vinicius Jr., Richarlison and Neymar provided the most consistent threats early on. Croatia utilized a defensive posture for the majority of regulation, which resulted in limited offensive threats.

Brazil again threatened with a shot attempt assault in the early minutes of the second half, but the Croatians held strong.

Livakovic provided repeated brilliance between the posts to keep the game scoreless. The Brazilians attempted eight shots in the second half, with five on target. Croatia failed to produce a shot on target in regulation.

Neymar finally broke the deadlock with his brilliant sequence in the first minute of extra time stoppage time.

The attacking midfielder/forward received a pass about 40 yards from the goal to start the play. He then turned and sent a quick pass ahead for Rodrygo.

The striker used his first touch to send a feed back to Neymar, who immediately split defenders with a pass to midfielder Lucas Paqueta at the top of the box.

Neymar sprinted forward after he released that feed. Paqueta used his first touch to send a ball between Neymar and the goal. The Brazilian star raced to the ball and tapped it to the left of Livakovic. He then smacked a point-blank range shot into the net.

The goal tied Neymar with soccer legend Pele as Brazil's all-time leading scorer, with 77 goals.

Brazil appeared to be in line for the victory and held their narrow lead to end the first half of extra time. Croatia then equalized in the 116th minute.

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Orsic received a ball on the left flank during that sequence. He then raced into the box and fired a pass to Petkovic.

The Croatian forward used his first touch to fire a left-footed shot, which deflected off a defender and beat Brazilian keeper Allison for a score into the left side of the net. Neither team found the net again, prompting the shootout.

Vlasic blasted the first attempt into the middle of the net to start the penalty session. Livakovic then dove to his left to save Brazil's first shot, attempted by Rodrygo.

Majer then beat Allison for a second time with a shot up the middle. Brazilian Casemiro followed with a strike to the left side, beating Livakovic and cutting the deficit to 2-1.

Modric followed with Croatia's third-consecutive successful attempt. Brazil's Pedro then shot his attempt into the net to keep the shootout close.

Orsic followed with a successful shot just inside the left post to give Croatia a 4-2 lead. Brazil's Marquinhos took the final attempt, which ricocheted out to give Croatia a dramatic victory.

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Croatia will face the Netherlands or Argentina in the World Cup semifinals at 2 p.m. EST Tuesday on Fox.

The winner of that match will face either England, France, Portugal or Morocco in the World Cup final.

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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