With the FIFA World Cup 2022 hosted by Qatar fast approaching the quarter-finals, Japan and Croatia faced off against each other in the Round of 16 clash on December 5, Monday at the Al Janoub Stadium. It was a thrilling encounter given that both teams have come a long way and have fought hard to make a cut to the knockout stage of the ongoing world's biggest sporting event. The Japanese camp were confident since they had defeated Australia earlier in the group stage.
Croatia on the other hand were confident of pulling off a win and making it through to the quarter-finals of the tournament. However, the Japanese star Daizen Maeda played the spoilsport and eventually opened the account for the team in the 43rd minute. Much to the stupefaction of the Croatian fans, the first half ended with a scoreline of 1-0, with Japan carrying the momentum into the second half.
Japan, Croatia fight hard in knockouts of FIFA World Cup 2022
Eventually, the Croatian camp bounced back in the second half and started banking on their strengths. Capitalizing on the opportunities, the team managed to push the ball as many times as possible into the 18-yard box although only one among them of all paid off. Croatia's Ivan Perišić matched the lead in the 55th minute and brought the team right into the game, post losing the momentum in the initial half.
However, teams kept toiling hard in the deciding half and the Japanese team gave it their all to make a comeback into the game, given that things were getting out of hand for the team that outclassed the initial half completely. At the 80-minute mark, both teams remained with 1 goal apiece and the fans, on the other hand, were awaiting a winner, given that it looked like the game might go either way. Eventually, the match entered the 'additional time' phase as both teams remained at 1-1 at the stroke of the second-half whistle. At the end of the penalty shootout, Croatia made it through to the next stage as they crushed Japan 3-1 in the penalty shootout.