Japan scored first in the waning minutes of the first half following a point-blank shot from forward Daizen Maeda in the 43rd minute. It was also Maeda’s second goal in an international competition.
However, 10 minutes into the second half, Croatia evened the score. Forward Ivan Perišić took a long pass over the top from the right side and beautifully headed in the ball past Japanese goalkeeper Shūichi Gonda.
The match that was played at Al Janoub Stadium went into penalty shootouts after a riveting back and forth action for 90-plus minutes of regulation and extra time. Croatia eventually knocked out Japan 3-1 on penalties.
Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livaković was the star of the game-ending shootout, the tournament’s first, as he amazingly blocking three Japanese shots. Livaković tied a World Cup record with most saves in a shootout.
It was a disappointing end for the Japanese team who has failed to make it to the round of 16 even after making it to the Round of 16 in World Cup tournaments held in 2002, 2010 and 2018.
The only Asian countries to advance to the quarterfinals in the history of the tournament remain North Korea in 1966 and South Korea in 2002.