Three of the four quarterfinal matchups at the 2022 World Cup are now set, and the wait for a knockout round shock goes on. As much as the group stage matches produced all sorts of drama and surprise results, the Round of 16 has gone completely to form so far, with all the favorites winning, and most winning rather easily.
To their credit, Japan did make it not so easy on Croatia, proving that matching 2-1 group stage wins over Germany and Spain were not fluke results. The Samurai Blue’s positive football earned them plenty of fans at the World Cup, even if their journey ended in the heartbreak of penalties, the first penalty shootout at this tournament.
Japan even took the lead in this one, scoring just before half-time, but obviously Croatia have more than enough quality of their own, and they fought back early in the second. With neither team able to find another breakthrough, we headed to extra time, where the double-change of Luka Modrić and Mateo Kovačić going off certainly raised a few eyebrows.
But it all worked out in the end for the 2018 runners-up, with Japan faltering in the shootout and Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livaković — we might remember him from our games against Dinamo Zagreb this season — making three (3!) saves.
Clichéd as the following statement may be, but Croatia will have to play a whole lot better if they are to hang with Brazil in the quarterfinals however.
The Selecão may have confused Stadium 974 for the set of the latest Nike joga bonito commercial (cue the Mas Que Nada!), especially in the first 45 minutes when they ran rampant with four of the most gorgeous goals you’ll ever see in tournament play. Individual skills, improvisational audacity, and a telepathic understanding were all on full display, with perhaps their third goal — scored by Richarlison and assisted by none other than Thiago Silva — the pick of the bunch.
This entire run by Richarlison was just unreal pic.twitter.com/7lwbtaTfAF— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 5, 2022
And it’s not even that South Korea played badly — they drew at least two world class saves from Alisson Becker and scored a worldie of their own as consolation in the second half. Brazil were simply unstoppable and if they can keep this up, it’s hard to see anyone stopping them at this World Cup.