World Cup 2022: Croatia stuns Brazil in penalty kicks to advance to semifinals

Croatia's Bruno Petkovic, right, celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Croatia and Brazil, at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Croatia's Bruno Petkovic, right, celebrates after scoring his side's tying goal during the World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, on Friday. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Croatia is heading to the semifinals of the 2022 World Cup.

The Croatians continued their incredible run in penalty kicks at World Cups with a defeat of Brazil after the teams tied 1-1 in regulation. All four Croatia kick takers made their penalty kicks while Marquinhos missed Brazil’s final penalty off the post.

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Neymar’s extra-time goal appeared to be enough to send the World Cup favorites to the semis after he gave Brazil a 1-0 lead with a moment of brilliance moments from the end of the first half of extra time.

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But Croatia tied the game in the final 15 minutes on a deflected shot from Bruno Petkovic. Croatia hit Brazil on the counter with just four Brazil players behind the ball and Petkovic got a kind deflection as the ball beat Alisson at his right post.

Petkovic’s goal was Croatia’s first shot on target of the entire game. It came in the 117th minute.

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Croatia felt destined to win the game after Petkovic’s goal given their incredible run after regulation over the past two World Cups. It made the final of the World Cup in 2018 after winning its first two knockout-round games in penalties and in extra time over England in the semifinals. And Friday’s penalty kick win came after goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic saved three penalties in a round of 16 penalty kick win over Japan.

Livakovic made a key save on Friday too. He stopped Rodrygo’s penalty kick on Brazil’s first turn. That save forced Brazil to play catchup the rest of the way but Croatia’s Nikola Vlasic, Lovro Majer, Luka Modric and Mislav Orsic made sure that didn’t happen. All four clinically hit their penalty kicks as Orsic’s shot tucked just inside the post turned out to be the winner.

As evidenced by Croatia’s inability to get a shot on goal during regulation, Brazil was the better side across the run of play and created far more scoring chances. Livakovic had to make 10 saves over the course of regulation and extra time as Brazil peppered the goal.

But Croatia’s defending was impeccable. It felt like it was going to take a moment of magic for Brazil to get a goal in extra time — and that’s what happened when Neymar’s beautiful goal put Brazil up.

However, Brazil’s defending after the goal left something to be desired and Croatia pounced.

Croatia’s win also means that Neymar will have to wait a while to become Brazil’s all-time leading goal scorer. His extra-time goal tied him atop Brazil’s all-time goal scoring list with Pelé at 77. With the 82-year-old legend hospitalized in Brazil, Neymar passing Pelé while Brazil hoisted a sixth World Cup seemed inevitable.

Instead, the favorites are out of the tournament and the Brazil versus Argentina matchup in the semifinals that many expected will not happen. It’s the fourth quarterfinal exit in the past five tournaments for the Brazilians as Brazil hasn’t finished any better than fourth at the World Cup since winning its fifth in 2002.