The World Cup group stage was full of upsets, but so far the knockout phase has gone exactly according to expectations.
Japan was close to becoming the first Cinderella team to reach the quarterfinal, but Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livaković was waiting in a penalty shootout in the round of 16.
Livaković saved three of the four Japan penalties he faced in Croatia’s 3-1 shootout win, securing his team a spot in the quarterfinals.
The goalkeeper equalled a World Cup record for most saved penalties in a shootout, which was set by his predecessor Danijel Subasic during Croatia’s run to the final in 2018.
Japan took the lead Monday through Daizen Maeda, who scored after a scramble from a corner kick in the 43rd minute. Croatia struck back in the 55th minute with a header from distance by Ivan Perišić.
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From there the game went goalless and entered a penalty shootout, where Croatia prevailed in the round of 16 and advanced to the quarterfinals.
Croatia was a bit of a surprise finalist in 2018 but this time around, there may not be many surprises in the knockout round. Croatia’s win Monday meant the favored team has won in all five last-16 ties thus far.
The onus now falls on South Korea (vs. Brazil), Morocco (vs. Spain) or Switzerland (vs. Portugal) to spring a round-of-16 upset.