Croatia makes a good run but falls short in the semifinals

By: Aeden Evenson-McDermott

After narrowly escaping the Groups stages with the 0-0 tie with Belgium, Croatia would feature in the Round of 16 against Japan on December 5th. In the first half, Japan would be adventurous and have a more free flow approach. Just before halftime, Daizen Maeda scored a goal that was deflected and bounced through the Croatian defense for the 1-0 lead.

Just after halftime, and in the 55th minute, Croatia’s Dejan Lovren crossed an on point ball which found its way to forward Ivan Perišić who excitingly got the breakthrough with a thrasher header, which was beautifully perfected and put into the bottom right corner of the goal. Both teams would go back and forth between possessions. Croatia would reclaim and take the midfield and be more physically dominant.

After the Croatia goal, Japan would rise to the occasion and wouldn’t go down too easily. Wataru Endo would test goalkeeper Dominik Livaković with a shot fired from way outside the box which for sure stung the hands of Livaković.

As the game drew to a close of the 90 minutes regulation, it would be sent to an additional 30 minutes of extra time. With no score in the additional 30 minutes it would be the first penalty shootout of the 2022 Qatar World Cup to decide the winner.

Following 2018’s World Cup, Croatia was pretty dominant when it came to a penalty shootout. The first two penalties for Japan were saved and Croatia came through and converted theirs. A clutch performance by Croatia’s keeper Livaković would send them on to the next round of the quarterfinals.

On December 9, Croatia would turn their attention to the epic finale of facing Brazil. With the odds stacked against them, and many counting the Croats out, it would have to be a spectacular performance to hold Brazil at bay.

Croatia came out ready to play with a refined passing game and the upper hand in the possession. Croatia wasn’t intimidated by the pace of Brazil and stood firm. The first half was pretty back and fourth but the second half would contain more drama.

When the ball came in and there were claims of a handball on right back Josip Juranović, VAR (video assistant referee) got involved but quickly shut the down the possibility of a penalty.

In the rest of the second half, Livaković would be busy as he would have to eliminate the ball getting to the back of the net. Croatia held their breath as the moments ticking down to the 90 minutes of regulation occurred.

It would be an additional 30 minutes of extra time. Both sides would exchange opportunities and go on the attack. Just before the end of the first period of extra time, Brazil’s Neymar dribbled his way and eloquently slotted the ball into Livaković’s net. 1-0 to Brazil.

Croatia would need to channel their inner belief to get the equalizer and take it to penalties. Croatia came out strong for the second period of extra time and would make Brazil play into Croatia’s hands and style of play.

With the inability of giving up hope and surrendering, Bruno Petković would have a powerful shot which took a deflection off a Brazilian defender, and went past goalkeeper Alisson in the 117 minute. 1-1!

It would send it to penalties once again and Croatia would need to stand tall.

Rodrygo would be denied on the first penalty kick by Livaković. Nikola Vlašić, Casemiro, Lovro Majer, Pedro, and Croatia captain Luka Modrić would all convert theirs with Croatia having the 3-2 lead.

Marquinhos of Brazil would need to step up in order to keep the Brazil dream alive. A poor run up would lead to Marquinhos hitting the front side of the post and the ball going out. Such a big missed opportunity which would cost them the game as Croatia’s Mislav Oršić got the deciseful winner!

Brazil would be kicking themselves and left asking themselves questions. Why didn’t Neymar step up to take the penalty? Following the game, Brazil’s manager Tite would resign and leave the team.

On December 13, Croatia played Argentina for the semi final clash. Modrić vs Messi. Two incredible players with much history. Croatia would again be the underdogs. After a successful run of the World Cup so far, Croatia would come out flat footed and discombobulated in many ways against Argentina. Croatia had much of the possession in the first half but Modrić was limited in his abilities by the play of Argentina.

An early penalty in the 34th minute would start the unraveling for them. The referee was quite poor with many calls but this, in my opinion, was not a penalty. Julián Alvarez of Argentina was going for the ball and actually initiated the contact by running into Livaković. The ref gave Livaković a yellow which was totally a joke, in many ways, because if you give a penalty you can’t do a card as well. Anyways, Messi of course would smash the ball into the upper part of the goal and give Argentina the lead.

A few minutes later, in the 39th minute Alvarez would dribble himself down the field and weave his way through the Croatian defense and score to make it 2-0 going into halftime.

The second half was a bit more composed for Croatia but Argentina was still quite dominant. In the 69th minute Messi would dribble Croatian sensation center back Joško Gvardiol down the field and dump the ball off to Alvarez with another great feed to ultimately make it 3-0. It was a costly defeat and unfortunate for such a great Croatian team through the World Cup.

Another great player, the captain, the heart and soul, the savior, of the team, Luka Modrić would have his last go at the World Cup but would fall short.

Congrats to Argentina and more importantly Messi! Argentina faces France for the World Cup final on Sunday the 18th, at 9 am on FOX, while Croatia will make a run for the bronze medal as they take on Morocco on Saturday the 17th, at 9 am on FOX as well. Should be an exciting weekend and hopefully a good roundup of the 2022 Qatar World Cup!

Be on the lookout for the recap of the final, and 3rd place game, of the World Cup as well!

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