World Cup favourites Brazil stunned by Croatia in quarter-final shootout
Croatia stunned favourites Brazil on penalties as the 2018 runners up reached the World Cup semi-finals again.
Marquinhos hit the post and Dominik Livakovic saved Rodrygo’s spot-kick in the shootout as Croatia won 4-2 – with star man Neymar never even taking a penalty.
The Paris St Germain star equalled Pele’s Brazil scoring record with 77 FIFA-registered goals to give his side the lead in the first half of extra time at Education City Stadium, only for Bruno Petkovic to level with four minutes left as the game ended 1-1.
Stubborn Croatia had held off five-time winners Brazil in a second half of impressive resistance where Livakovic denied Neymar.
A tame Vinicius Junior effort was the best Brazil could muster during a forgettable first half where both sides felt each other out.
Croatia were the better team, pressing well and able to create fine openings without ever being able to capitalise on them.
But they wilted soon after the break as Brazil took the game to their opponents.
Neymar’s scuffed shot fell to Vinicius who was denied by Livakovic – Croatia’s hero in their penalty shootout win against Japan in the last round.
Brazil had upped the tempo and Neymar should have done better than to shoot at Livakovic when he was teed up following good work by Richarlison after 55 minutes.
Croatia struggled to stem the Brazil tide and Livakovic was needed again to save smartly when Josko Gvardiol turned Eder Militao’s cross towards his own goal.
As an attacking force Croatia were non-existent with Brazil dominant yet unable to find a way through.
Richarlison and Raphinha were sacrificed for Pedro and Anthony but Brazil were forced to go to extra time by steely Croatia.
Brazil, though, looked to have run out of steam as Croatia started to threaten.
Brilliant feet by Petkovic took out the opposition defence and he squared for Marcelo Brozovic, only for the substitute to blaze over from 15 yards.
It was a miss Croatia would rue when Brazil grabbed a stunning opener in injury time.
Neymar danced past several challenges, showed quick feet to round Livakovic and lifted his shot into the roof of the net from close range.
But, with Brazil closing in on the last four, Croatia stunned them with four minutes of extra time left.
Mislav Orsic burst down the left and his cross was met by Petkovic, with his shot taking a deflection off Marquinhos to beat Alisson.
Livakovic denied Casemiro in extra time before penalties.
Rodrygo’s penalty was saved by the goalkeeper before Marquinhos hit the post to send Croatia through.